Mental Health America Celebrates Black History Month
Mental Health America FAQs for African Americans
Mental Health America (MHA) celebrates "Black History Month" and acknowledges pioneers in mental health who served as the impetus for raising awareness of the need for culturally competent care, mental health treatment services, as well as research and access to care for all Americans; particularly African Americans. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) statistics an estimated 19 million people in the United States experience depression each year. African Americans are a population that is less likely to seek help for mental illness. The lifetime prevalence rate of depression among African American women is 12.6 compared to 6.3 among African America men. African Americans shared history of inequality and discrimination has had its effects on the population as outlined below:
- African Americans are less likely to seek help for mental illness.(1)
- The estimated average age of first use of marijuana by African American youth is 13.8 years old; the average age of first use of cocaine is 13 years old.(2)
- African Americans are 30% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites.(3)
- Suicide attempts are higher for African American girls (10.4 percent) than for Caucasian girls (6.5 percent). (4)
Mental Illnesses are treatable conditions if diagnosed and managed with proper care. MHA acknowledges these pioneers for their contributions to America's health delivery system creating better outcomes for all Americans.
African American Pioneers in Mental Health
photo provided by: www.sciencesource.com
Solomon Carter Fuller (1872-1953)
Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller was a pioneering African-American psychiatrist who made significant contributions to the study of Alzheimer's disease. He was born in Liberia, the son of a previously enslaved African who had purchased his freedom and emigrated there. He graduated from Boston University School of Medicine, which as a homeopathic institution, was open to both African-American and women students. He spent the majority of his career practicing at Westborough State Mental Hospital in Westborough, Massachusetts. While there, he performed his ground-breaking research on the physical changes to the brains of Alzheimer's patients. Solomon Carter Fuller, M.D., was one of the first known black psychiatrists and worked alongside Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who first discovered the traits of Alzheimer's disease in 1901.
photo provided by: www.blackpast.org
James Pierpont Comer, MD
In 1968, Dr. Comer was a cofounder of the Black Psychiatrists of America. He also developed a school improvement program designed to promote student development and learning and to prevent behavior and psychological problems. This approach is receiving both national and international attention. He is recognized for these pioneering efforts that combine the professional fields of psychiatry and education.
photo provided by: J.Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University
Susie Baker King Taylor (1848-1912)
Susie King Taylor was born a slave in Liberty County, GA on August 6, 1848. Susie was the first African American army nurse. She was also the first African American to teach openly in a school for former slaves in Georgia. As the author of Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops, Late 1st S.C. Volunteers, she was the only African American woman to publish a memoir of her wartime experiences. She went on to establish and operate two schools for colored children of free slaves in Liberty County and Savannah, Georgia.
Maxie Clarence Maultsby, Jr, MD
Maxie C. Maultsby, Jr, the first African-American MD to author books on rational behavioral therapy. Dr. Maultsby's unique contributions include making emotional self-help a legitimate focus of scientific research and clinical use. He was the first to formulate a comprehensive system of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy and counseling that incorporated, in a clinically useful way, the most recent neuropsychological facts about how the brain works in relation to emotional and behavioral self-control. The technique of cognitive-behavioral therapy and counseling that Dr. Maultsby created is called rational behavior therapy and is the first comprehensive, yet short-term, culture - and drug-free technique of psychotherapy that produces long-term therapeutic results. In addition to authoring books for health professional therapists and counselors, Dr. Maultsby has written four pioneering books that describe his method of emotional self-help, called rational self-counseling.
Mamie Phipps Clark
Mamie Phipps Clark was one of the first African-American women to earn a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University. Her experience at this center is what helped Clark to realize the shortage of psychological services available to the African American community and other minorities in the area. She believed that the lack of care, frustration, anger, and worries within the children and the parents were results of racism and a racially segregated society. This prompted Clark to open her own agency to provide comprehensive psychological services to the poor, blacks, and other minority children and families. In February 1946, Mamie Clark opened the doors of "The Northside Center for Child Development" for those in the Harlem area. She worked in the center counseling and providing other psychological services from 1946 until 1979, when she retired. Although retired, Clark served on different advisory boards and was still very active within her community. Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark died on August 11, 1983.
Freda C. Lewis-Hall, M.D., FAPA
Freda Lewis-Hall, M.D., is Chief Medical Officer of Pfizer Inc. She leads Pfizer Medical, the division responsible for the safe, effective, and appropriate use of all Pfizer's human health products. In her 30-year career, she has held leadership roles in direct patient care, academics, media, government, and the biopharmaceutical industry. A psychiatrist by training, she is a well-regarded expert on the effects of mental illness on families and communities, and on issues of health care disparities. She is an appointee to the board of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), a body empowered through U.S. healthcare reform to improve health care decision making and delivery. She serves on several other boards including The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health; the Harvard Medical School Board of Fellows; and the Society for Women's Health Research. She is a Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.
- NIMH, Multi-site Schizophrenia Study for African-Americans Involving Both Patients and Family Members
- An Early History - African American Mental Health
- National Alliance on Mental Illness Minority Health Statistics
- American Psychiatric Association Mental Health & the Economy, Wellness Tips
- Examining Differential Treatment Effects for Depression in Racial and Ethnic Minority Women: A Qualitative Systematic Review Study article, Journal of the National Medical Association
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.) Eliminate Disparities in Mental Health. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/omhd/AMH/factsheets/mental.htm.
2. American Association of Suicidology.(n.d) African American Suicide Fact Sheet. Retrieved from http://www.suicidology.org/c/document_library/get_file?folderId=232&name=DLFE-156.pdf
4. Black Mental Health Alliance, BMHA Did You Know Mental Health Statistics?http://www.blackmentalhealth.com/PDF/Mental%20Health%20Statistics.pdf