April 26, 2005

Mental Illness & African Americans

The following is a newsrelease from SAMHSA

Free Teleconference Training on Decreasing Stigma Associated with Mental Illness in the African American Community

You are invited to participate in a free, teleconference training, “Decreasing Stigma Associated with Mental Illness in the African American Community.”

This teleconference training is sponsored by the SAMHSA Resource Center to Address Discrimination and Stigma (ADS Center), a project of the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The session is free to participants.

Date: Thursday, May 5, 2005

Time: 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Time)

To register for this teleconference, please fill out the form at stopstigma.samhsa.gov/regpage.htm Also, feel free to pass on this invitation to others who might be interested. For more information, please contact America Doria-Medina by email (stopstigma@samhsa.gov) or by telephone at 1-800-540-0320. Please note: Registration for this teleconference will close at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4, 2005.

The research literature suggests that African American communities lack knowledge about mental illness and about how to access early mental health intervention services. Common myths, stigma, misinformation, and fear unduly influence many African American families. Consequently, while African American families experience mental illness in proportions that are the same as the rest of the population, they are more likely to delay seeking treatment or to succumb to court-ordered treatment, resulting in more severe diagnoses, longer inpatient treatment, and poorer prognoses.

The speakers for this teleconference training will discuss ways in which African Americans obtain information about mental illnesses; identify barriers, including beliefs and fears, to seeking help; and describe the work of an assembly of churches in Texas that provides education and information to decrease stigma and discrimination among African Americans in faith communities. The training will be provided by King Davis, Ph.D., Wilma Townsend, and Marietta Bell Noel. Brief profiles of the trainers follow:

Mr. King Davis, Ph.D.

Dr. Davis is a professor, the Robert Lee Sutherland Chair in Mental Health and Social Policy, and Director for the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. His research and teachings at the University of Texas at Austin have focused on mental health public policy, culturally competent mental health services, health care for those with mental illnesses, and disparities in rates of illness and service delivery for consumers of color.

Ms. Wilma Townsend

Ms. Townsend is a nationally recognized expert on consumer-focused recovery and cultural competence. She has extensive experience as a consultant to States, local government entities, managed care organizations, and consumer and family organizations in the areas of consumer recovery and recovery-oriented services, peer-operated services, consumer involvement and outcomes, and cultural competence. Ms. Townsend is involved in a research project titled, “Actualization of Best Practice Model System-Wide: Examination of Recovery-Oriented Services and Outcomes.” She contributed issue papers on the topics of consumer recovery and cultural competence to the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health.

Ms. Marietta Bell Noel

Ms. Noel is coordinator of the Central Texas African American Family Support Conference and Senior Planner at Austin Travis County Mental Health Mental Retardation Center in Austin, Texas. She provides process direction and coordination for Center-wide strategic and annual plans and serves as a planning liaison for various community entities involving Center services. Ms. Noel has worked in health and human services in both the private and public sectors and has more than 30 years of successful experience in program management, case management, and consumer and family relations. She is a current member of the Center’s Cultural Diversity Committee.

Speaker presentations will take approximately 60 minutes and will be followed by a 30-minute question-and-answer period. Anyone who responds to this invitation will receive confirmation by e-mail. Prior to the teleconference, participants will receive an online link to presentation materials and log-in instructions for the call.

The SAMHSA ADS Center is a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services.


I believe that my son is Schizophrenic (age 21). At this point he refuses treatment. I need some assistance in seeking treatment for him. I have no where to turn to and every call I make it's saying it's voluntary. Well, he doesn't believe anything is wrong. I just need some advice.

Posted by: Jacqueline Henderson at May 4, 2005 10:22 PM

I want you to understand something. I was born legally blind. No one knew, not even me. I participated in life and went all the way up to 5th grade not being able to see anything that wasn't 12 inches in front of me. To me this was normal. I thought everyone was the same way. I was the top student in all of my classes during that time. There were some things I couldn't do like sports, but I explained that by saying that other kids were simply super kids...how else could they hit a ball they couldn't see, and what were they throwing basketballs in the air for? Anyway, my point is that because we are taught that illness is something physical, we do not understand schizophrenia to be an illness. When you start hearing voices you simply rationalize that someone with some interesting technology is harrassing you. You rationalize away the illness. You can always give your son a testimonial biography of others who have schizophrenia and maybe he will recogmize similarities and decide that he does indeed have schizophrenia. I have schizophrenia and at first I rationalized, but I was always aware that something was wrong. I simply had a rational explaination for it that didn't include me having a problem. I externalized it. Now I realize that I am dealing with some deep internal states. I am always aware when something is wrong I just have to make decisions about how I will interpret it and what I will do about it. I hope this helps.


Posted by: Shawn at May 30, 2005 05:16 AM

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