Saturday, March 16, 2019

It's Not All About the Bootstraps: There's More at Play Than Personal Responsibility When it Comes to Blacks Achieving Better Health Outcomes

by Shervin Assari, MD MPH

Many Americans deeply believe that people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps. After all, individual responsibility is a core American value. 

Too much emphasis on an individual's responsibility, however, may result in overlooking the societal and historically causes that keep racial minorities such as blacks at an economic and health disadvantage. 

As a member of the University of Michigan's Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, Poverty Solutions and Department of Psychiatry, I study racial inequalities in health. 

My research has shown that it is not lack of personal responsibility, low motivation or culture of poverty but deeply entrenched societal factors such as racism and discrimination that cause such disparities. 

In fact, my research indicates that society differently rewards blacks and whites with the very same level of self-reliance and education attainment. As long as such society treats social groups differently, any policy that overemphasizes individual responsibility has the potential to unintentionally widen the racial health inequalities. 

Bootstraps Better Serve Whites Than Blacks

In my research, I have compared the effects of three indicators of individualism and self-reliance on blacks and whites. Specifically, I looked at: the sense of control over one's life; self-efficacy, or a person's belief in his or her ability to produce certain performance standards; and mastery, or a sense of feeling competent at life's tasks. 

Together, these indicators reflect one's ability to constructively control life and the environment, which has a direct effect on the quality of their health. What I have found suggests that the idea of using bootstraps to pull oneself from poverty, which is useful for whites, is not similarly applicable to blacks in the United States. 

In a national sample of older Americans, having a high sense of control was associated with living longer, but this was the case for whites only and not blacks. That is, while a high sense of control was giving whites extra years to live, blacks were dying regardless of their sense of control over their lives.

In a 25-year longitudinal study of adults from 1986 to 2011, I found similar results for the effects of self-efficacy on mortality. Again, only whites, but not blacks, lived longer if they had high self-efficacy.

I found similar results for the link between depression and sense of mastery, or a feeling of having command of one's life. While whites with a high sense of mastery experienced less depression, blacks with a high sense of mastery still showed symptoms of depression.

Although indicators of individualism are beneficial to the health and well-being of whites, according to several studies by my team, these indicators fail to protect blacks. Ironically, a high sense of desire to take control over their lives puts blacks at an increased risk for mortality. 

So, it appears that, due to systemic, persistent injustice and pervasive inequalities, the health gain from being able to pull oneself up by the bootstraps is considerably smaller for blacks compared to whites. 

Whites Gain More From Better Jobs, Income and Education

My results also show that health gains do not accrue to all races equally. For example, health gains due to education, employment and income are systemically smaller for blacks than whites. For example, the effects of education on smoking, drinking and diet are smaller for blacks than whites.

Black men gain very little life expectancy from being employed. The largest gain from employment goes to white men. In the same manner, blacks' physical and mental health benefit from marriage is smaller compared to whites.

The Health of Black America

Also, there is a smaller gain with increased income for blacks when it comes to health. Typically, as income increases, the number of chronic diseases and risk of depression decreases. The protective effect of income on depression and chronic disease, however, are smaller for blacks than whites. 

In other words, the same dollar buys less physical and mental health for blacks than whites. While white children from wealthy families are protected against obesity and asthma, family wealth fails to protect black children against same conditions. 

Thus, highly educated racial minorities are not enjoying the fruits of their labor, with the returns of their investment being minimal for them. My studies suggest that when a minority family climbs the social ladder, the system holds them back by giving them smaller economic and health returns for their investment.

Studies have shown these patterns also hold across generations; parents' socioeconomic status does not beget tangible health outcomes for their children.

Wealthy and Highly Educated Black Men Are More Depressed

And, blacks sometimes face further hurdles when they succeed. For example, for black youth and adults, high socioeconomic status sometimes means more discrimination. This explains why securing more education and wealth means a higher, not a lower, risk of depression for black families who do achieve higher education and wealth. 

For example, in a nationally representative study of black boys, high income was a risk factor for depression. In a 25-year follow-up study, most educated black men showed an increase in their depression. In the same study, education was protective for other race by gender groups. 

These findings are also replicated in other studies I have conducted and those done by others. It could be the case that LeBron James was onto something when he said, "No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough." 

Just because the U.S. had a black president does not mean racism is dead. There is little doubt that blacks have to fight existing racism and discrimination at many levels. 

Police shootings, mass incarceration, residential and job segregation, and concentration of poverty and crime in urban areas are some examples of the barriers that many blacks, particularly black men, deal with on a daily basis. 

My research indicates that these structual barriers to social advancement manifest themselves in health, notably how long people live and the health they enjoy during their lifetimes. I
believe that good policies are those that are designed based on evidence, not political ideologies and values. 

The idea of pulling oneself up by own bootstraps does not equally apply to all race and ethnic groups, given the history of slavery and Jim Crow as well as existing racism and segregation.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Mental Health Needs of Blacks Are Not Being Met Says APA President

There is a mental health crisis in the black community, which calls for improved cultural competency training for all psychiatrists as well as more openness among blacks to talk about these issues, said APA President Altha Stewart, M.D. 

Stewart recently spoke at a session on mental health at the 48th legislative conference of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), an organization aimed at advancing the global black community by developing leaders, informing policy, and educating the public.

Cultural competency training is aimed at helping health care providers understand patients’ values, beliefs, and behaviors so they can customize treatment to meet patients’ social, cultural, and linguistic needs. 

For black Americans, this means becoming more aware of the impact of community stressors and how these factors are contributing to their mental health problems, said panelists at the first-ever CBCF panel devoted to mental health in the black community. 

These factors include violence and trauma, racism, implicit bias, poverty, and limited access to educational, recreational, and employment opportunities, said Stewart, who is also the director of the Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. 

“Just being a black person in America can keep you in a constant state of rage,” she said, quoting James Baldwin. There are only about 2,000 black psychiatrists nationwide, Stewart pointed out. “There are not enough black psychiatrists in America to serve all the black people who need mental health care.” 

Stewart called for all psychiatrists to become more culturally competent, and for all to encourage young blacks with an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to enter the mental health field. “Medicine needs their voice. We need their presence.”

Patricia Newton, M.D., M.P.H., CEO and medical director of the Black Psychiatrists of America, told attendees that less than half of blacks with mental disorders get the care they need; that number drops to one-quarter when blacks of Caribbean descent are taken into account.

Blacks are also more likely to be subjected to implicit or unconscious bias by clinicians, Newton added. “Very often, our people are misdiagnosed.” 

For example, blacks with depression are often misdiagnosed with schizophrenia and blacks grieving the loss of a loved one, who say they’ve experienced a “visitation,” have been diagnosed as psychotic, due to cultural and religious misunderstandings, she said. 

Making matters worse, blacks are more likely to be hospitalized for psychosis than to receive community treatment, she said. Mental illness, suicide, and sexual abuse are seriously under-reported among blacks.

Stewart said because these topics are taboo in churches, throughout the community, and even within families. “You can’t get an accurate reporting of what you’re not talking about.”

She encouraged black people to educate themselves about mental illness using reputable sources, openly discuss issues of mental health, and identify people in the community who need help. 

“We have to dispel the myth that mental illness doesn’t happen to us in the black community, that it’s a ‘white folks’ disease.’ We are suffering in silence and in pain.”

New to Android and iPhone is “The Safe Place,” a minority mental health app geared specifically towards the black community. The purpose of The Safe Place is to bring more awareness, education and acceptance on the topic of mental health. Not only can the black community benefit from this app, but also mental health professionals, friends, and family of all colors can be better educated on this serious issue and do a service by directing their black friends, co-workers, etc. to this app. The Safe Place can also be a great learning tool for mental health professionals to better understand their black patients, given our social backgrounds are different and the importance of understanding that aspect.

Police Killings Tied to Worse Mental Health for Blacks in US

By Lisa Rapaport 

Police killings of unarmed black people are associated with worse mental health for African-Americans across the country, even when they have no direct connection to the deaths, a U.S. study suggests.

Each year in the U.S., police kill more than 300 black men and women - at least a quarter of them unarmed, researchers note in a report in The Lancet, June 21. African-Americans are more than three times as likely as white people to be killed by police and more than five times as likely to be killed while unarmed. 

Beyond the immediate impact for victims and families, however, research to date hasn't provided a clear picture of the spillover effect these killings can have in the black community.

For the current study, researchers examined survey data from more than 103,000 black adults, collected between 2013 and 2015, to see how often they reported days on which their mental health was "not good" in the previous month. The study team also looked at data on police killings in participants' home states in the past 90 days.

On average, participants reported 4.1 days of poor mental health. But researchers found that each additional police killing of an unarmed black person in the past 90 days before the survey was associated with 0.14 additional days of poor mental health among African-Americans who lived in the same state as the victim.

"To people who may be suffering from poor mental health in the wake of police shootings, our study says you are not alone," said lead study author Jacob Bor of the Boston University School of Public Health.

"There is an urgent need to reduce the incidence of police killings of unarmed black Americans," Bor said by email. "But there is also a need to support the mental health of black people and communities when these events occur."

African-Americans are exposed to an average of four police killings in their state each year, the study found. Extrapolating the results from the study to the entire population of 33 million African-American adults in the U.S., researchers estimated that police killings of unarmed black people could contribute to 55 million excess poor mental health days annually.

Overall, almost 39,000 of the black survey participants were exposed to one or more police killings of an unarmed black person in their state during the study.

The largest effects on mental health occurred in the one to two months after killings, with no significant effect on psychological wellbeing for people surveyed before killings occurred.

Researchers also didn't find police killings associated with any shifts in mental health among the white people participating in the same surveys.

Police violence is widely considered a form of structural racism, and it's not necessarily surprising that police killing unarmed black Americans is experienced negatively by black Americans and perceived as a form of injustice that is difficult to escape or prevent, said Dr. Rhea Boyd, author of an accompanying editorial and a pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in California.

This type of systemic racism has been linked to so-called toxic stress - wear and tear on the body from chronic exposure to traumatic experiences - which can lead to changes in the brain, immune function and metabolism that contribute to physical and mental health problems.

"While the evidence presented in The Lancet did not identify the pathophysiologic pathway by which police violence causes population mental health impairment for black Americans, evidence that such an impairment is indeed caused by police killing unarmed black Americans opens (the) question of the operative biochemical pathway," Boyd said by email.

"Because of the relationship between racism and toxic stress, future research should explore how police violence, as a vicarious exposure to racism, may be toxic to the functioning of organ systems and thus the health of black Americans," Boyd added.

Historically Blacks Are Immune from Mental Illness

King Davis, Ph.D.

Tracing the history of how the mental health of African Americans was characterized during slavery sheds light on why disparities in psychiatric care still exist. The proportionate number of slaves who become deranged is less than that of free colored persons, and less than that of whites. 

From many of the causes affecting the other classes of our inhabitants, they are somewhat exempt: for example, they are removed from much of the mental excitement to which the free population of the Union is necessarily exposed in the daily routine of life. 

Again, they have not the anxious cares and anxieties relative to property, which tend to depress some of our free citizens. - John Galt, Report of the Eastern Asylum (1848), Williamsburg, Va. In 2020, the Commonwealth of Virginia will acknowledge the 150th anniversary of the first mental institution for blacks in America and the theoretical and political roots that marked its segregationist origins. 

In this article, I will discuss changes in causal theories, legislation, and public opinion in Virginia that linked blackness, mental illness (lunacy), dependency, and dangerousness as the predictive aftermath of slavery. It was this combination of sentiments, fear, and experiences that contributed to long-term differences in mental health care (excess admission rates, severe diagnoses, treatment, delayed help seeking). 

In addition, this article describes current efforts to retain, restore, and increase access to the 800,000 historical documents that describe the historiography of this unique institution and the thousands of people who were admitted. 

The Immunity Hypothesis

Historically, concepts of race and mental illness have been intimately linked in American psychiatry, policies, and public opinion. Starting in the 1700s, two diametrically opposed medical views were alternatively used to predict vulnerability of black populations. 

From 1700 to 1840, enslaved blacks were described as immune to mental illness. John Galt, M.D., medical director at Eastern Lunatic Asylum in Williamsburg, Va., hypothesized that enslaved Africans were immune from the risk of mental illness because they did not own property, engage in commerce, or participate in such civic affairs as voting or holding public office. 

The immunity hypothesis assumed that the risk of “lunacy” would be highest in those populations who were emotionally exposed to the stresses of profit making—principally wealthy white men.
Controversy over the 1840 census may have helped influence the passage of legislation in Virginia that allowed enslaved Africans qualified admission to Eastern Lunatic Asylum. 

Three conditions were included in the legislation that circumscribed their admission: (1) no enslaved Africans could be admitted without a petition from their owner or person who held jurisdiction over them; (2) the petitioner had to pay for the inpatient care of the enslaved; and (3) the admission of an enslaved person could not deny admission or treatment opportunities for white residents. 

From 1765 to 1868, fewer than 100 free or enslaved blacks were legally allowed admission to Eastern Lunatic Asylum. Findings from the 1840 census purported to show that free blacks in northern cities experienced significantly higher rates of mental illness than enslaved blacks in the south. 

However, this conclusion failed to acknowledge that mental institutions in the South were restricted by law from admitting slaves. The purportedly higher rates of mental illness in Northern states were attributed to the inability of blacks to manage freedom, and their repeated efforts to escape slavery by migrating to northern states was characterized as pathological. 

Race-specific symptoms and hybrid diagnoses (for example, draeptomania) were coined to explain predictions of exponential increases in incidence and danger from idle black men if freed. 

In 1848, the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane appointed Virginia’s two medical superintendents, Galt and Francis Stribling, M.D., to develop a report to inform and guide public policy on race and mental illness.

Galt believed that there was no medical rationale for separating people with mental illness by race although he agreed that slaves should be excluded. After state legislation was passed in 1848, Galt provided admission to enslaved blacks if their owners paid for their care. 

Stribling, the superintendent at Western Lunatic Asylum in Staunton, Va., opposed the admission and treatment of blacks in his asylum. Despite their differences, the 1848 report written by Galt and Stribling recommended that the states adopt a policy to segregate asylums by race. 

By 1865, Stribling’s proposal that Virginia develop a separate hospital for blacks was consistent with the expectations of the Freedmen’s Bureau. Segregation quickly became national policy, which may have influenced the quality of mental health care for blacks into the 20th century.

The Exaggerated Risk Hypothesis

Blacks could receive care until the “immunity hypothesis” was displaced. Regrettably, the exaggerated risk hypothesis predicted excess mental illness, dependency, and dangerousness of black people if slavery were abolished. 

From 1860 into the 20th century, free blacks were seen at the greatest risk of mental illness. The causes included poverty, urban living, adverse family structures, and migration. The exaggerated risk hypothesis supported increased hospitalization of blacks as a means of control and safety.

The Central Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane

After the end of the Civil War, Howards Grove Hospital near Richmond provided limited health and welfare services for newly freed slaves. But in 1868, the Freedmen’s Bureau negotiated with the Virginia legislature to accept the hospital as the first mental asylum for blacks in America. 

The opening of the Central Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane was based on the prediction that thousands of newly freed black people needed mental health care. Rates of admission and frequency of severe diagnoses at Central Lunatic Asylum increased significantly in patterns that supported dire predictions of rampant illness. 

From the 1870s to 1899, the number of admissions increased almost sixfold. However, the most significant increases came during the Depression years, when close to 10,000 people were admitted compared with 1,200 in the preceding two decades.

Project Aims to Put Information Online

In 1895, the Central Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane was renamed Central State Hospital. (Its first black director and medical director were hired in 1985 and 2000, respectively.) From 1868 to 1968, the hospital remained segregated by race and was the only hospital in the Commonwealth of Virginia that accepted African-American mental patients. 

The hospital has maintained over 800,000 documents that provide details on the institution, patients, and staff. For example, the documents provide 32 characteristics of each person admitted from 1868 to 1942. 

Current state law allows access to documents that are 75 years or older; however, access by families and scholars to these historic records has been limited.

*King Davis, Ph.D., is a senior research fellow in the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also the former commissioner of behavioral health and developmental services for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Old, Black and Alone: A Grim Forecast

by Rodney Brooks

More African Americans are facing retirement without family members to help an increasing number of African Americans are facing the prospects of a life in retirement without family members to help them with finances and health issues, according to a recent report.

The report, 'Projections of White and Black Older Adults Without Living Kin in the United States, 2015 to 2060', says the number of older vulnerable African Americans without family members is increasing and will continue to grow.

This forecast takes on added significance because African Americans have much lower retirement savings and more serious health issues than white Americans, in general, including considerably higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer-related deaths.

Elevated Risks That Come With Living Without Close Kin

“Family members provide the majority of social support for most older adults, but not all individuals have living family,” the report says. “Those without living close kin report higher rates of loneliness and experience elevated risks of chronic diseases and nursing facility placement.”

The report says the trend of growing old with no living relatives is being driven by the rise in “gray divorce” (the divorce rate among people 50+ increased by 50 percent between 1990 and 2010), declining marriage rates and the aging of the growing population.

Ashton Verdery, assistant professor of sociology and demography at Penn State University and co-author the report, says the steeper rates among African Americans are driven mostly by higher rates of non-marriage and childlessness and because mortality rates are higher among African Americans at every age.

The Bleak Forecast for African Americans

The numbers of older people without any living close kin is rising among African Americans and whites, the report says, but the numbers are growing much faster for African Americans. 

For example, in 2015, 0.8 percent of white men 50 and older and 1.1 percent of white women 50 and older were living without close kin. Those numbers are projected to double by 2060 to 1.9 percent for white men and 2.2 percent for white women.

However, the increases will be much larger among blacks. The percentage of black men over 50 without any living close kin in 2015 was 1.9 percent; for black women, it was 2.2 percent. Those percentages are projected to rise to 5.6 percent and 7.3 percent respectively in 2060.

That means there will be 1.2 million older black men and 1.6 million older black women with no living kin by then, the report says. “Our findings draw attention to the potential expansion of older adult loneliness, which is increasingly considered a threat to population health, and the unequal burden (a lack of family) may place on black Americans,” the report says.

Financial Hardships From Being Old, Black and Alone The effect can also lead to financial hardships

“People without families have a higher rate of loneliness and they don’t have access to the short-term loans that families can give,” says Verdery. “A large body of research suggests the ability to rely on a family member for even a small amount in loans a couple of hundred dollars because a heating bill is higher can really bridge things.”

Because of the racial difference between whites and blacks in wealth the average wealth of white families in 2013 was more than $500,000 higher than that of African American families — African Americans are more likely to need such loans. “And that fact that on average, they are more likely to not have any family may be concerning,” said Verdery.

Implications for Long-Term Care

He said aging alone also has serious implications for residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities. “Having family members come in and check, or someone double checking what doctors are doing, is a beneficial thing,” Verdery noted. “We may need to have more programs that check on people, particularly those without family.”

A Challenging Financial Future

These issues all point to a challenging future for African Americans, already plagued by low retirement savings and lower monthly Social Security benefits than whites, in general.

“We (African Americans) are not saving enough money in defined contribution plans [like 401(k)s], and not saving money in the right places in these plans,” says Aaron W. Smith, a financial adviser in Glen Allen, Va. “And when we cash them in, we don’t know how to plan a strategy to create that lifetime of income, because we don’t know what we need to outlive our assets.”

Charles Winfrey, founder and senior adviser at The Rollover Co. in Nashville, says even if African Americans have enough savings today, “the challenge is that longevity will not be in your favor.” 

The longer you live, he notes, “the more you are affected by the cost of living, taxes going up and rising health care costs. You may be OK today. But do you have a plan to deal with health care costs, inflation and taxes?”

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Black History Month: 7 Ways Slavery Still Psycho-Behaviorally Impacts Black People Negatively

From my perspective if one thinks the influences of Black enslavement is over due to the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) and Civil Rights legislation (1965) then one has a limited perspective.

Though legal - physical slavery is over mental slavery is far more insidious, enduring, and manifests itself today psycho-behaviorally in self-limiting, self-containing, self-ashaming, and self-defeating ways.

7 Ways Slavery Still Psycho-Behaviorally Impacts Black People Negatively:

1. Names and Identity Disorder

Just as Kunta Kinte was forced under the lash to change his name in the novel and movie Roots, Black people both in America and Africa were forced to take their European slave masters’ names. Arab enslavement in Africa resulted in forced name impostion.

Currently, most Black people still carry European or Arabic names, which is a direct link to our enslaved identity. Unfortunately today too many young Black adults and teens identify themselves as being 'Niggas' a racist derogatory name from slavery.

Moreover, many young Black males not only identify themselves as Niggas, they also integrate the names of White Mafia mobsters and Latin American drug cartel kingpin figures names into their own names. Also, too many young Black males identities come from street gang affiliations.

There is a poigant scene in the classic movie Boyz From The Hood, where the star of the movie 'Tre' was talking in class and the teacher singled him out telling him to come up front and teach the class. Tre goes to the blackboard and pulls down a map of Africa and says we all come from here, a young Black male in the class immediately responds by saying “Nigga I aint from no Africa, I'm from the Crenshaw Mafia” (gang set).

2. Religion

More powerful than the European and Arab names that were forcibly imposed on Black slaves, was the religious imposition of Christianity and Islam. The Catholic Church used Christianity to justify enslaving Africans and used it to control Blacks on the plantation.

They used the imagery of a white Jesus as the Son of God to show the white man as God 'All-Knowing' and 'All-Powerful'; the white man is an awesome embodiment both as the 'Enslaver' and 'Savior'; that Blacks must accept a 'for
cibly imposed' Jesus for their salvation to get their rewards in heaven after death.

Regarding Islam, many parts of Africa were already under Arab Islamic 'conquest' control prior to European Christian colonialism; Muslim Africans were captured by European slave traders and brought to America. 

Today you have Black Christians turning toward the 'Vatican' and 'Jerusalem' as the sacred lands; Blacks that are Muslims turn toward 'Mecca' in Saudi Arabia as the sacred land. What about Africa being Blacks sacred land, it's our birth place and the birth place of civilization and monotheistic religion?

Black people have been taught under the domination of the religious 'supremacy' and 'exclusivism' of the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that these are the 'only' religions that God accepts! That Judaism - 'Jews' are God's chosen people, that Christianity - 'Jesus Christ' the Son of God must be accepted as Lord and Savior to enter the kingdom of heaven; that Islam - 'Prophet Muhammad' must be accepted as God's last and final Messenger to enter paradise. 

Thus as a Black person practicing any Traditional African Religions or New World African Religions is inferior and doom to go to hell; so our salvation in the afterlife is in following the religions of Jews, Europeans, and Arabs

John Henrik Clarke stated: "Anytime someone says your God is ugly and you release your God and join their God, there is no hope for your freedom until you once more believe in your own concept of the 'deity'." 

The majority of Blacks forcibly brought to America and enslaved came from 4 Traditional African Religious (TAR) centers: Bakongo, Yoruba, Akan, and Vodun, most Blacks today no nothing of their Traditional African Religious heritages. 

Historical research shows that most enslaved Blacks during slavery did not identify themselves as Christians because they practiced an integrated and modified version of Traditional African Religion in the new world known as 'Hoodoo' a natural spiritual healing system.

In the Book “Slavery, Civil War, and Salvation: African American Slaves and Christianity” by Daniel Fountain, successfully challenges assumptions regarding the ubiquity of Christianity amongst Black slaves and suggests that the Christianization of most African Americans occurred after Emancipation.

It was during the Reconstruction Period when white Christian missionaries helped finance and build new churches and schools for freedmen which created a tremendous conversion of ex-Black slaves to Christianity. Without slavery there would be no Black Christians in America!

3. Food

The diets of many Black people who in live in the Diaspora are a direct result of slavery. The slave masters generally consumed the lean and fleshy parts of farm animals, and left the scraps for the enslaved. Enslaved Africans were forced to incorporate those leftovers such as chitterlings, hog-maws, ham-hocks, pig nose, pig ears, pigs feet, and other bad foods into their daily meals.

Those unhealthy foods from slavery are still part of the diets of many Black people today along with the high consumption of fast-food and junk-food. This diet is harmful to the body and are the cause of chronic illnesses that plague our communities including Strokes, Heart disease, High blood pressure, Diabetes and Obesity.

Currently African American adults are nearly 1.5 times as likely to be obese compared with White adults. Approximately 47.8 percent of African Americans are obese (including 37.1 percent of men and 56.6 percent of women) compared with 32.6 percent of Whites (including 32.4 percent of men and 32.8 percent of women.

4. Economic Dependence

Before Arab and Transatlantic slave trade, many African economies flourished and were the foundation of stable, developed societies. Mansa Musa, who was king of the great Mali empire in the 14th century, was the richest man on the planet, worth $400 billion dollars, which is more than any black nation’s annual GDP today.

In the post Civil Rights era, Blacks tend to invest the majority of their income in communities outside their own to the detriment of their daily lives and well-being. 

Today Blacks have purchasing power of over a trillion dollars, almost all of this buying power goes to non-Black businesses; for every dollar Blacks spend only 2 cents is spent with Black businesses resulting in 'economic suicide'. We've become consumer slaves believing other people need our buying power more than we do; we've become financially insane!

5. Language

Currently the official language of many people who are African or African descent is either European or Arabic. Whether it was during the 8th century Arab invasion into north Africa or the European colonization and slave trade that began in the 15th century, foreign languages were forced upon Black people and have been the legacy for generations.

Today Black youth are encouraged to learn second languages like French, Spanish, Chinese, Japenese, and Arabic, but are not encouraged to learn the Pan African language of Kiswahili. Around 5 million Africans speak Swahili as a native language and a further 135 million speak it as a second language.

6. Self-Hate

The slave masters used Machiavellian systems to mentally break the enslaved Africans. While validating themselves as superior, they used every propaganda tool within their power to teach Black people to hate themselves. The results still have major impact on the psyche of Black people today - our hair being an example.

On the slave plantation Black women were told they had 'bad hair' nappy and wooly; taught to be ashamed of their hair. During slavery, Black women with lighter skin and curly hair were more likely to be house slaves, whereas Black women with darker skin and kinky hair were relegated to the fields with 'Mamies' being the exception.

Since slavery Blacks have consistently altered the natural texture of their hair or worn wigs to cover up their hair. The Black revolutionary movement of the 1960's to the middle 1970's was the greatest period of promoting and wearing natural Black hairstyles.

Just look around today and see the majority of Black women wearing long hair wigs and weaves. I hear Black women give all kind of reasons why they prefer long hair, but the bottom line psychologically from my perspective is they subscribe to a white long-hair beauty standard 'consciously' or 'unconsciously'

How often do you see White women, Korean women, Arab women, or other non-Black women wearing braids or natural Black hair styles – rarely or never!

7. Family

The destruction of the Black family unit through the slave master’s intrusive sexual exploitation of women and other evil designs, evolved into a volatile moral code for Black people. 

On plantations enslaved Black men were not men 'fathers', only the white plantation owner was the 'godfather', enslaved Black men were not fathers, they were 'breeders'. Enslaved Black fathers had no ultimate control over their children; they could not protect their children from the master's harsh discipline or prevent them from being sold.

When enslaved Black males turned 15 years old and younger in some cases they had their first inspection. Boys who were under-developed, had their testicles castrated and sent to the market or used on the farm. 

Each enslaved male was expected to get 12 females pregnant a year. The men were used for breeding for five years. One enslaved man name Burt produced more than 200 offspring, according to the Slave Narratives.

A weakened Black family emerged from slavery, as a consequence today over 70 percent of African-American children are born to unmarried women in America. That number is an astonishing residual effect of slavery; such large numbers of Black children born to single mothers is clearly the wrong model. 

Too often I hear young Black women and older referring to Black men as 'sperm donors', just a new term for Black men as breeders. There is a growing trend where Black women in lesbian relationships are sexually manipulating Black men in sperm doning so they can have a child and get child support. 

Indeed, Black men are increasingly viewed as marginal in the new version of the Black family of 'man-less' households. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Self-Care for Black People 101: Options Outside of Church and Therapy

by Risa Dixon

Living while Black is a term that is used to describe the reason why vast numbers of Black people face injustices and prejudices at an alarming rate.

The tragic results of these continual situations in the lives of Black people have led to increased amounts of depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).

The two solutions that continue to be presented as ways to cope are seeking solace in a higher power or going to therapy. But what if those two options don’t work for you? What else can Black people do to battle depression?

When we hear the terms ‘depression’ or ‘therapy’ the phrase ‘white peoples problems’ pop into the heads of many in the Black community. Depression is an issue that continues to either get swept under the rug, ignored or treated as a momentary emotion that will eventually pass. 

These notions have led to more Black people hiding their mental illness instead of dealing with their issues head on. According to Mental Health America, adult are 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than whites. 

We have already seen too many situations in the Black community that led to suicide because someone was depressed but never expressed it to a single soul. 

The fact of the matter is, not everyone believes in a high power, practices a religion or can afford therapy. These people still deserve options that will help them deal with depression in a constructive way, a way that they can turn into a lifestyle practice.

Below are suggested solutions to dealing with depression:

*Meditation - It has been proven to reduce stress, increase happiness, acceptance and self-awareness.

*Enhance your self-esteem - Read uplifting Black books that provide you with self-appreciation.

*Daily Journaling - Journaling assists in clarifying your thoughts and feelings, reducing stress and solving problems more effectively.

*Exercise - Regular exercise improves your mood by triggering endorphins in your brain and helps to boost energy; walk for full body exercise.

*Finding group activities to partake in - Sites such as Meet-up, Living Social and Groupon have a plethora of engaging group activities to partake in to lift your mood. You also can find groups of people who either suffer from the same issues as you or are just as passionate about particular topics as you are. Being around people like this will help you to feel less alone in your struggles. It can expose you to a community that you didn’t know existed. Do volunteer work!

*Picking up a new hobby such as playing an instrument or painting - Making music has been proven to be a powerful antidepressant.

*Join a grassroots organization dedicated to uplifting the Black community and combating systematic racism - If one of the reasons or the main reason for your depression is racism or the socioeconomic status of Black people, then join a local grassroots organization or nonprofit whose mission is to improve conditions for Black people. Being proactive about solving issues that threaten your mental stability can assist with the loneliness your depression may cause. It also can give you a sense of purpose and meaning for your life.

*Unplug from the news and social media - Black people are bombarded with images and news of dead Black bodies, discrimination and injustices towards the Black community on a daily basis. Studies have shown that ingesting all of this negative media can lead to severe depression. It is crucial to unplug from it all and focus on the things that bring you joy.

*Go outside and get some sunlight - Studies have shown a link between Vitamin D deficiency and depression. The natural way to get this crucial vitamin is going outside and basking in the sun.

*Adult coloring books - I know this may seem funny at first, but experts have said that adult coloring books help to alleviate anxiety and depression. I can personally attest to the calming effects of coloring books. Whenever I feel my depression or any kind of stress creeping up, coloring is one of the things I do to deal with it. Adult coloring books have become a new trend and are easy to find. Some even have positive affirmations that go along with every image. There are many Black-owned businesses that sell them at affordable prices. Depression continues to carry a stigma in the Black community, but that stigma is killing Black people. Experts state that the majority of African-Americans still look at depression as a personal weakness instead of a mental illness.

In all actuality, it shouldn’t be referred to as ‘white people problems’ because Black people have been dealing with major depression dating back to slavery. During those times, spirituality and community were how we stayed strong. Depression was considered just another part of Black existence and that notion carried on to future generations.

In the current political and social climate living while Black has become more and more difficult. A study showed that more Black people are suffering from PTSD simply from watching media coverage of Black men, women, boys and girls being unjustly killed.

It is essential to our well-being as a community to address mental illness head on and provide various solutions to combat it. When we say “Black lives matter,” it should mean every aspect of Black life.

Prayer isn’t always the answer and there have to be alternatives when therapy isn’t accessible. Ignoring an epidemic never made it go away.