Category Archives: Mind Health

Research, thoughts & community observations on keeping it together

How does urban removal affect our families?

When I go “home” to the city of my birth, I go to the corner where I used to play ball and there is little recognizable. Not even a tree that I used to play under or a shrub that we hid  behind those summer nights we played hide and seek. That is probably true for many of you.

Photo by Legacy Cities Design
Photo by Legacy Cities Design

In nearly every major city I have visited in the last few years, the “old” neighborhoods are becoming “new”. The new South Side. The new “Bronzeville”. (What do they call it?”) The new Atlanta. The New Newark. Coming eventually: The New Detroit. The lovely new names they give to streets that resemble wore torn Iraq but hold our most cherished memories.  The close, warm connections with neighbors & family broken by alcohol, unemployment, crack and then boarded up following the “War on Drugs” that we seem to have lost.  Who knew?

I did. I just didn’t understand how it would occur. I remember as a child hearing that the land our home was on was owned by the university even though the home was owned by my parents.  That after the year 2000, the land would go back to the university. Well that was inconceivable to me because, after all, the world was supposed to end in 1984. But don’t you know, that seems to be exactly what’s taking place in major cities all over the country. Whenever I take the train passing Baltimore, I see row upon row of houses, boarded up. Factory buildings for blocks, empty, their metal fittings rusted and I wonder to myself, “How did they get all of those people to leave, all at the same time? How do you get whole neighborhoods to vanish?

Of course, it’s the blacks that leave and the whites who move in. The buildings are cheap but they have pretty surfaces: granite kitchen counters and stainless steel refrigerators. They are cheaply built but they have big price tags- too big for the folks from the old neighborhood, many of whom were retired & struggling to pay the rising property taxes. Gentrification seems to mean “Give the younger generation of whites the homes, the land that your memories were made on”. Probably to local government it means new taxes, new income for new businesses, new mortgages for old banks.

Dr. Mindy Fullilove, Social Psychiatrist. Picture:YouTube
Dr. Mindy Fullilove, Social Psychiatrist. Picture:YouTube

To us it means, the destruction of our social networks and our families. To therapists and other healers it means an epidemic of invisible losses, a cutting of the fabric that holds us all together.  Watching this phenomenon as well, is social psychiatrist, Mindy Fullilove, a New Jersey native with a keen eye for the effects of the macro environment on the micro-connections between people.  What she has come to understand is something we all need to know. Continued…..

Why We Seek Black Providers

Dr. Veronique Thompson, is a California  psychologist. In an interview published in the ebook, “Cultural Diversity,  A Primer for the Human Services”, she does a more than adequate job of articulating the cumulative and historical forces that accompany clients into the therapy space. In that space, the launching of a successful therapy relationship requires trust, the expectation of acceptance and protection, understanding, and the opportunity to be heard without judgment. That is counter to the everyday experiences for most of us with whites, that is, with our interpretation of our experiences with whites.

We carry our histories into therapy

There are many parties to our interactions in therapy: our assumed acceptance of each other, our personal histories ( or let’s just call it “our baggage”), our body language (a big part of how we blacks communicate), our slang, the topics that are brought up  along with those that are avoided, and that delicate dance we do around sensitivity to the other’s perceived differences. With people who are more like us, there are fewer differences to be dealt with.

The movie, 12 Years a Slave, has made the severity of this history clear. When feelings of discrimination are ignored, they fester and erupt later in the therapy , disguised as some other issue. It is trust and understanding  that comes from knowing that our therapist has travelled the same road we’re on that accelerates the formation of a bond between therapists & clients.

When the therapist doesn’t recognize racism

 How people react to subtle racism is a good example of this. For many whites, it’s not there. It’s been reduced to a meaningless quip in popular media. They (the black who has suffered an invisible  slight) are “playing the race card”.  In a therapy session it is one of a thousand little cuts that needs to be recognized, vented and grieved over. It can make black folks start to feel a little crazy all on its own but with a black therapist, these underlying wounds get treated.

So baring your soul to a stranger is hard enough, and leaves you very vulnerable – to rejection – while baring your soul to a therapist is even harder, because they have the capacity to reject your sanity if they can’t recognize the validity of your underlying pain. Many white therapists, and some blacks, don’t understand that there’s an historical component to this pain. It is that history, if not the genetic impact of racism, that increases the sensitivity to everyday racism. Dr. Thompson addresses the historical aspect of this pain.

How our history may affect diagnosis and understanding

In the interview, Dr. Thompson, a Spelman graduate, states, “If you understood what the process of enslavement did to turn rage directed toward the self – directed toward one’s community as violence – it would give you a different way of understanding. How can one deal with that rage without pathologizing the person, and making their anger the only issue to be addressed? ” This is an important way to decipher the anger that is so often present in black life.  As providers, parents, teachers, police officers, we are shortsighted if we try to approach anger as if it has no roots. It is as ineffective as killing weeds by cutting off the leaves of the plants.

Dr. Thompson goes on to a deeper analysis of some of the emotions with which blacks are unequally burdened. She says rage turns into outrage. She notes that, “When a person is outraged, they’re outraged for a reason and the reason is injustice. So the period of enslavement is important because it shows us where the anger came from and there are a lot of residuals from our history having to do with anger, trust, and suspicion which really should be renamed healthy paranoia.”

Veronique Thompson, PhD. is a listed provider on this site.

Cultural Diversity: A Primer for the Human  Services, Jerry Diller. Cengage Learning, February 9, 2010. A Google eBook.

How to reduce “Baby-Mama” drama

Probably one of the most intense of dramas that frequent the therapy office is that of distraught, frustrated folks trying to co-parent. They rely on the court, the visitation schedule, the child support orders to communicate their interpersonal pain.

One can’t understand why the other left the relationship but they can understand how to make visitation difficult. One may have trouble being heard in person but they can make themselves heard through a subpoena. Often they don’t realize they are playing out dramas from their own childhoods – issues they can’t or don’t know to address. This is an instance when employing a therapist to mediate and facilitate more effective communication between estranged partners is a child-saving decision.

As early in the process as possible, begin using these steps to reduce the drama:

1.  Set a good intention in place around your interactions. Be determined to be courteous no matter what.  Remember, your kids are watching you. For example, say something like, “I really appreciate your patience in working on this” or “I want us to come up with a schedule that works for both of us”.
Or, how about a big intention like, “We are not going to let our relationship problems make our kids miserable or constantly worried. If nothing else, we’re going to keep them out of the drama”.

2. Stay calm. Give your co-parent an “out” when the situation gets tense. Try keeping a calm, low voice tone and say, “I can see this is so upsetting for you. Maybe we should think about it a little more and talk in a couple of days”.

3. Acknowledge your co-parent’s strengths and best efforts. “You’ve always been better at scheduling than I. I’m so glad that the baby can always depend on you….” or “You are such a good mother. Johnnie’s clothes are always so well organized. I really appreciate that!”

Now, you might be thinking, “Why should I make him or her look good when he or she has been such a jerk?” Because it makes you look even better. It also gives you some power over the situation, since if you’re kind or appreciative, your ex-partner might calm down and be nicer to you.

Try it! Consider it to be your own personal research into what will make your life easier.  Try different approaches and make note of what works better. Remember, there can’t be an argument if you won’t participate.

For a great resource to help you handle custody & support issues, check out attorney Alicia Crowe’s manual, Real Dads Stand Up

Does wheat increase schizophrenic episodes?

Over the last thirty years studies have shown that increased wheat consumption (bread, pasta, cereals) has been associated with increases in schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses.

Multiple studies have tracked reductions in schizophrenia in communities where there has been a corresponding reduction in removal of gluten from the diet.

Researchers in recent years have found a biological explanation for this relationship, noting that schizophrenics displayed abnormally igh levels of antibodies to gliadin, in a complex of wheat proteins.

Source: http://www.mercola.com, “60 Years of Research Links Gluten Grains to Schizophrenia.”