Pathways into The Black Population for Eliminating Mental Health Disparities
Participants listen to Mental Health speakers
Los Angeles, CA– Blacks receive far less adequate mental health treatment in California than whites and this discrepancy will continue until the state’s mental health system embarks on some culturally congruent changes, according to a state-commissioned report released recently in Los Angeles.
“It is unpleasant to admit, but many African Americans do not receive appropriate mental health services, even when they go to places that are suppose to help them,’’ said V. Diane Woods, Dr.P.H., director and lead investigator of the California Reducing Disparities project (CRDP) for the African American population, We Ain’t Crazy! Just Coping with a Crazy System: Pathways into the Black Population for Eliminating Mental Health Disparities.
The report was commissioned by the California Department of Mental Health and is the California Reducing Disparities Project for the African American Population. Its primary goal is to paint a clearer picture of the state’s mental health system as it relates to the African American community, Woods said.
As a fact-finding approach, the report’s investigators initiated 35 focus groups, 45 individual interviews, 635 surveys, and nearly a dozen public forums throughout the state of California to collect data on African American’s opinions on what practices promote good mental health in the community. Investigators also compiled and analyzed data and literature by African American experts throughout the country on mental health and social issues.
Nicelma J. King, a public policy analyst and one of the principal investigators on the study, said lack of knowledge about mental health, coupled with poverty, fragmented families, stigma associated with mental health, and a need for culturally proficient providers are some barriers to treatment in the black community.
“Most of us know when we fall out of a tree and break our arm we go to the hospital. But most of us (blacks) don’t know where to go when we’re severely anxious or depressed, or we are around someone who is severely anxious or depressed,’’ she said. “We (blacks) don’t know what the response ought to be. We won’t have change in mental health in our community until people know where to go to see about these problems.”
Based on the community’s responses, investigators created a list of 274 different recommendations for addressing mental health disparities in California. The recommendations include developing programs to help build resilience, especially among youth; supporting community agencies, clergy and families as first responders; developing mobile mental health centers; and require cultural proficiency training by mental health providers.
“It is important for we African Americans and everyone to shift the conversation when it comes to mental health concerns,” says Dr. Daramola Cabral Ibrahim, DrPH, Chair Health Sciences at John F. Kennedy University and a consultant on the study.
“We need to be able to talk about a mental illness, be it depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc. as we talk about diabetes or asthma. And, it is important to be able to talk with a willingness to learn, to be open-hearted and compassionate,” says Cabral Ibrahim.
“Family members, friends and co-workers are the eyes and ears of the community,” Cabral Ibrahim says. “Early recognition and intervention can prevent major emotional issues later on in life.”
The report also calls for establishing community based oversight commissions to ensure providers are knowledgeable on handling patients of different races and work with the menta lHealth Services Oversight and Accountability Commission.
“We need to get this to the governor’s level; we need a commission to get this information out,’’ an impassioned Virniecia Green-Jordan, president of the Perris Elementary School District in Perris, Calif., said during Tuesday’s conference. “We need some legislation to bring it to another level.’’
Woods said the next step is to start devising a statewide strategic plan, which will begin this fall.
“We are setting the political agenda, from your opinion, what types of policies need to be in place for ethnic populations to get the services they need and to implement the recommendations,’’ Woods said.
The research was contracted to AAHI-SBC through The California Department of Mental Health (DMH), in partnership with the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) and funded by the Mental Health Service Act, Prop 63.
AAHI-SBC is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 grassroots community-based organization. It was awarded the $411,052 contract to conduct the California Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP) for the African American population. Funds were made possible by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) of 2004. The contract period was for two years, from March 1, 2010 to February 29, 2012.
For a copy of the report go to http://www.aahi-sbc.org/. To comment or become a part of the change contact Dr. Ron Chapman, MPH, director and state health officer at (916) 558-1784