Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mental Health, Meds & Minorities

See more photos from our Harlem Day Flickr Set
Harlem Day is a very special time for NYers and visitors alike. Annually this two day event brings out thousands of people from around the nation. At Harlem Day you can buy abstract art, clothes and handmade jewelry, participate in family activities, eat vegetarian and Caribbean food from local vendors, partake in wellness classes and attend free concerts. It's one of the nation's most anticipated events. And this year instead of being an onlooker I actually contributed to the work of the Social Therapy Group by screening the public on what they think it means to have a mental health diagnosis, primarily in children of color. Though the responses were varied most responders believed that people in general are over-diagnosed, specifically, kids of color and that people use their diagnosis as a crutch over their social responsibility.

Labeling is a significant social issue in our culture. People are labeled by what they wear, how they speak, what complexion they are, even what music they listen to. Labeling helps place people in categories so that we can make sense of what they believe in, support, negate or whatever. But in my opinion, I think labeling is used for the sake of boxing people into a format that makes us feel comfortable; maybe even to work less hard getting to know someone different than you.

Albeit, the Harlem community had strong opinions about the topic and personally some also had their own experiences with diagnoses and medications. A lot of times people think if you are diagnosed with ADD or depression that simultaneously you will be medicated. One does not always go hand in hand. The treatment can be complementary but it doesn't have to be. I know and have worked with many people who are depressed. There are varying degrees of depression. Some people who are depressed work regularly, have families, travel and so much more. Other people I know are severely depressed and take medication and attend therapy on an ongoing basis. The best treatment options are discussed and agreed upon between patient and provider. But in many cases, people in communities of color are afraid to seek help because they worry they will be forced to take medication and they believe the diagnosis will follow them throughout their life and career. It is a violation of a patient's rights to privacy for a diagnosis to be disclosed to anyone who is NOT treating the patient, that includes your boss and peers.

Talking about diagnoses, mental health, the language we use to describe anyone who is not well are all very important topics we need to make a part of our regular discussions. We may not be able to remove the causes of the illness, but we can change the way we view being sick, taking care of ourselves and each other and accept a no-fault belief system around mental illness.

I hope the community will continue coming out and having these discussions w/ me and the Social Therapy Group. We want to hear from you!

If you are looking for more information on Social Therapy go to our Connections page.




At September 8, 2012 at 7:30 PM , Blogger Rosechell Spencer III said...

What is meant by a "no-fault belief system?" As in it isn't "your fault" you have a certain condition or, more specifically, a mental-illnesses.
Or are you alluding to how some people with an ailment many feel as if they deserve to be ill, by virtue of destiny, faith, chance, or karma?
I'm just confused.

At September 9, 2012 at 3:23 PM , Blogger asha.tarry said...

I think you may be reading more into what's being said bc yes here we are talking specifically about mental illness only. Good question regarding "no fault" is just that, that it's in the public 's better interest to accept that having a mental illness is not someone's fault and if we open a dialogue about mental illness these myths can be debunked. Thanks for your feedback Rosechell.

At September 9, 2012 at 3:36 PM , Blogger asha.tarry said...

To add, there was a time in history when mothers were blamed for their children having a mental illness. Researchers and practitioners, society perpetuated this belief. Over time, science has come to accept mental illness as a medical illness with varying factors that may contribute, not cause mental illness. I, and many others, want to create environments that help people to cope and function with mental illness, provide education, resources and a more tolerant society. Let's keep the conversation going. Share this story with people you know.

At September 20, 2012 at 1:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Particularly well written, insightful, and very timely. I especially like your conclusion:

"we can change the way we view being sick, taking care of ourselves and each other and accept a no-fault belief system around mental illness."
Sidney Hankerson, MD


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