Tag Archive | "Black Pain"

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Report: African Americans Over-represented in Residential Mental Health Facilities

By Adam Stulhman and Ann-Marie Mesquita, Staff Writers

HARTFORD—African Americans are over-represented among in-patient or residential psychiatric care facilities, according to a recent report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Connecticut mirrors this national trend.

According to the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, there are 647 (or 6 percent) Hispanic, 2,924, (or 8 percent) white, and 1,080, (or 12 percent) African American patients in inpatient or residential care.

Moreover, the percentage of blacks in these facilities is almost twice that of whites in all hospitals, except private psychiatric hospitals. Experts say this trend is because of a variety of culturally influenced reasons: poverty, stigma, biases, and a lack of mental health providers, who are culturally adept with people of color. According to NAMI, which gave the nation a “D” on delivery of mental health services, these reasons are major contributing factors that hinder minorities from seeking out treatment before “symptoms become so severe that they warrant inpatient care.”


Additionally, African Americans have experienced “racist slights in their contacts with the mental health system,” according to the same 2009 NAMI report. “Some of these concerns are justified on the basis of research revealing clinician bias in over-diagnosis of schizophrenia and under-diagnosis of depression among African Americans.”

The disproportionate number of blacks in inpatient or residential treatment is alarming because African Americans have the same rate of mental illness as whites, experts say.

Yet, African Americans are underrepresented in outpatient treatment populations but over-represented in public inpatient psychiatric care. The causal factor in the under-representation of blacks in outpatient treatment is the out-of-pocket expense, or lack of employer-based managed care, the report says. Consequently, only working and middle-class blacks, who have insurance, can afford outpatient care. However, the racial gap between African American and white’s use of community-based programs is nonexistent because treatment is financed by public sources, especially Medicaid.

mental-health-in-hartford-ctAccording to Zelphia Hunter, a recovery coach specialist at Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership and a coordinator of Shining Hope for Communities, the findings in the report resonates with her on a personal and professional level.

Hunter, a Hartford resident who lives with depression, said the “biases” that mental health providers have towards victims of mental illness are preventing many blacks from getting the services they may need.

“People need to realize that they have biases,” said Hunter, “and despite the fact that they may have good intentions, mental health providers need more training on how to deal with their biases, and how these biases hinder other people from getting help. People just need to understand that this is discrimination.”

Part of breaking down these barriers, Hunter said, is to promote more cultural awareness, and through the training and hiring of more Africans and Latinos in the mental health field.

“There is not enough training in cultural sensitivity and diversity in Connecticut,” Hunter said, “We need more people of color in the mental health field.”

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African Americans Negotiate Mental Illness, Black Pain

Q and A :Terrie Willams, Mental Health Advocate, Author

Kate Mattias, Executive Director of the CT NAMI chapter, concurred with Hunter, saying that there needs to be better access and treatment for African Americans and Latinos.

Said Mattias:“African Americans and Latinos access mental health services at a far lesser degree then the general population. We need to increase the number of culturally competent providers.”

Like many community activists and scholars, State Representative Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) links the increase in mental health patients in the community to mass incarceration and said the state has been awakened about these longstanding issues. The legislature, he said, is now seeking policy changes to address these complex issues.

“We need to make changes to the laws that have led to higher rates of incarceration for African Americans, and one way this might happen is through people being able to earn credits for release while serving time by going to treatment while in jail. This could take time off a sentence.”

Ritter also said that more changes in the quality of healthcare are on the horizon.

“In the coming weeks, we might see a change in the uneven access to care available, and we might also have more beds for children,” he said.

Communications Director for the Department of Children and Families Gary Kleeblatt said that there is also a need to improve the quality of services available to black and Latino children.

“We are interested in continual improvement of services for children of color. They have needs and we need to improve upon meeting those needs,” Kleeblatt said. “We also need to expand and improve community-based health services, a more concentrated effort to move resources from residential treatment centers and group homes to children that are at home.”


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Q and A: Terrie M. Williams

Editor’s Note: Terrie M. Williams will keynote a special forum today at the Hartford Public Library’s Center for Contemporary Culture. The forum begins at 5: 30 p.m. This interview is by Ann-Marie Adams.

1. Why should people pay attention to “black pain”–their pain?

Because we’re dying. Some people, like Susan Taylor, never publicly disclosed their depression. It’s a part of the healing when we get up and share our story, especially if I share my story and encourage other people sharing. There’s a great comfort and relief in doing so because we find out we’re not alone. In the upcoming March issue of Essence, they are going to be doing a story profiling three women who suffer from depression. One of them is a young lady I mentor–Jourdan Atkinson. She was always angry. Then she spoke about the numerous rape. She stood up and said something out loud. That’s the power of sharing our story. One young man stabbed someone seven times. He didn’t kill him. But it was what he said afterward that pierced my spirit. The person he stabbed wasn’t even the person he was mad at. That’s why we need to smile at people. We need to make people feel like they matter–not that they are less than. That’s why I think everyone should care about this issue. Life happens to us. The question isn’t what’s wrong with her or him. It’s what happened to her or him.

African Americans Negotiate Mental Illness, Black Pain

2. You talked about the notion of anger and how the black community deal with that anger. Some people would say black people have a reason to be angry.

I’m glad you mention that. But there’s a danger in that anger when we start to hurt other people. I mentioned the young man who was angry and stabbed someone seven times even though he wasn’t mad that that person.

3. What have you learned since your book was published four years ago?

If I had more time I would have added two things. I would have written about seniors, gays, lesbians and the transgendered population. So many people suffer from depression because they feel they can’t be who they are. I would address the challenges, the pain and the depression that comes from being different.

4. Is there hope?

We can’t fall off the floor. There’s no way to go but up. The book came out in 2008. But it’s almost as if it just came out. People are still writing me, telling me their stories. I received a letter from a person’s son in prison. Someone sent him the book believing “he’ll read this book now, and he’ll understand why he’s there.” He read the book, identified with so many of the issues and he now understands why he’s there. Another woman got sick and tired of the dysfunction in her family. She bought the books, sent them to her family and got them to go to therapy. She realized the dysfunction and pain. And got fed up and told them they needed to come together. The book is making a difference in people’s lives. It lets people know it’s not healthy to keep these things to yourself. I still go to thearapy twice a month. I still take medication. There’s no shame here.

5. Any other thoughts you’d like to share as you get ready to visit Hartford, CT?

I feel honored and blessed to come there. Because it’s what our people need. Without your mental and emotional health for well being, you will become undone. We see all these personalities unraveling in front of us. The only means that if you have money, you just have more money to self-medicate.

Terrie M. Williams, author of “Black Pian: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting” will keynote a special forum today at the Hartford Public Library’s Center for Contemporary Culture, 500 Main Street, Hartford, CT, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, please call 860-404-2104.

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Terrie Williams to Keynote Mental Health Forum

HARTFORD — Gun violence. Poverty. Unemployment. All play a role in the mental and emotional health of African Americans, who are over-represented in high-need populations that are more at risk for mental illnesses, according to a 2009 study by Yale University.

The Hartford Guardian’s special series about mental health in the African-American community will culminate with a free public forum: Black Pain: Negotiating Health Disparities in the African American Community on Thursday, Jan. 24 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Hartford Public Library’s Center for Contemporary Culture located at 500 Main Street.

Terrie M. Williams, noted author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting and founder of The Terrie Williams Agency in New York, will be the keynote speaker at a public forum about depression in the Black community.

Williams’ remark will be followed by a panel discussion. Panelists include: Connecticut Senator Toni Harp (D-New Haven); Kevin Muhammed, President of Connecticut Emancipation Challenge; Trevor Foster, Owner of Tru Books; Naeem Muhammed, Social Worker with the Department of Children and Families among others. Also, Ann-Marie Adams, Founder of The Hartford Guardian, will moderate.

The Terrie Williams Agency is one of the country’s most successful public relations firms-handling through the years the biggest names in entertainment, sports, business, and politics. Clients included Miles Davis, Eddie Murphy, Prince, Mo’Nique, Sean Combs, Russell Simmons, Johnnie L. Cochran, Essence Communications Partners, Time Warner, HBO and dozens of other notable personalities and corporations.

Williams is a clinical social worker by training who became successful public relations pro by her own design. Over the years she has emerged as a passionate advocate for youth and those who battle depression.

All are welcome to participate in the discussion. Williams’ books will be on sale. And refreshments will be served from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Partners for this event include the Connecticut Health Foundation, The Department of Mental Health’s Office of Multicultural Partnership, the African-American Affairs Commission, the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, the Connecticut Alliance for Better Communities, The Hartford Guardian, The ROOT.COM, Hot 93.7, WNPR, and other community-based organizations.

For more information, call Fran Wilson at 860-404-2104.

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Study: Black Male Incarceration Jumps 500%, Resulting in a Mental Health Crisis

By Boyce Watkins, Ph.D.

A report has been released at Meharry Medical College School of Medicine about the devastating impact that mass incarceration has on our society.

The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, is one of the most thorough examinations of the impact that mass incarceration has on the African- American community.  The study’s authors argue that the billions of dollars being spent keeping non-violent offenders behind bars would be better spent on education and rehabilitation.

“Instead of getting health care and education from civil society, African-American males are being funneled into the prison system. Much of this costly practice could be avoided in the long-term by transferring funds away from prisons and into education,” says Dr. William D. Richie, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Meharry Medical College, lead author of the paper.

HARTFORD GUARDIAN BANNERThe study’s authors note that 60 percent of all incarcerations are due to non-violent, drug-related crimes.   The authors also note that the cost of substance abuse in the United States is as high as half a trillion dollars per year.

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“Spending money on prevention and intervention of substance abuse treatment programs will yield better results than spending on correctional facilities,” the authors claim in the study.

Finally, the authors note that while crime rates have declined over the last 20 years, incarceration rates has climbed through the roof. The inmates occupying these jail cells are disproportionately black.  In fact, the black male incarceration rate has jumped by 500% between 1986 the 2004.  The authors note that, even for those who don’t abuse drugs before going to prison, the likelihood of substance abuse after prison goes up dramatically.

You can read more of the study at this link.

The mass incarceration epidemic affects all of us, even those who haven’t gone to prison: It affects the child who grows up without  a father who has been incarcerated, the children who are bullied at school by that child, the woman seeking a husband who can’t find a good man to marry, the list goes on and on.  When so many of our men are marginalized and incarcerated, this has a powerful impact on the sociological ecosystem of the black community, the same way an economy crumbles when a few large companies go bankrupt.

The point here is that we cannot look at the holocaust of mass incarceration as someone else’s problem or something that just affects criminals.  The punishment should fit the crime, and when every study imaginable says that black people are more likely to go to jail for the same crimes, this means that Jim Crow is alive and well.

Something must be done at the grassroots, state and federal levels.

We cannot allow this epidemic to exist any longer.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the creator of the “Building Outstanding Men and Boys (BOMB) Family Empowerment Series.”

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Related Link:

Washington Post : On Being a Black Man


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