Are mental health professionals immune from institutional racism?

I was reading a recent and very disturbing article on PsychCentral this morning, entitled: “What’s In A Name? It May Determine If You Can Get Therapy” by Janice Wood. I was already familiar with the 2003 study that found those with black-sounding names were less likely to receive call-backs for job interviews than those with white-sounding names but I never dreamed that might be a factor in receiving mental health services! A very small scale (but still disheartening) study by the University of Vermont published in The Counseling Psychologist found that while callback rates for black-sounding and white-sounding names were the same, clinicians were more likely to tell those with black-sounding names that their case loads were full and that they would not be able to see them. They found “Allison” was invited to speak to the therapist 12% more often than “Lakisha.”

Institutional racism is the: “…societal patterns that have the net effect of imposing oppressive or otherwise negative conditions against identifiable groups on the basis of race or ethnicity.” –Tom Head*, CivilLiberties. About.com. Rather than the individual prejudice of one person, or in this case one clinician, institutional racism has to do with the prevailing ideas a society has about a race or ethnicity that lead to widespread negative ideas that can be so insidious we do not recognize them. I doubt that any one clinician says to themselves: “I won’t call Lakisha back.” or “I don’t want a black client” but they may have preconceived notions about the class of a potential client based on race. For example, they may assume that “Lakisha” has Medicaid or less attractive insurance that perhaps has a lower reimbursement rate than “Allison.” The may assume that “Lakisha” works a menial job with less flexibility to have daytime appointments that “Allison” might. While they might not realize that these stereotypes and assumptions are racist – they are. In fact, NAMI the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that African American males “are more likely to receive a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia when expressing symptoms related to mood disorders or PTSD.” In fact, African Americans as a whole are overdiagnosed with Schnizophrenia according to William B. Lawson, MD, PhD, professor and chair of psychiatry at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, DC. [1]

It is troubling that in 2016 that an individual in need of mental health services might suffer for their race. It is especially upsetting when you take into consideration that “according to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population.” [2] It is important, as professionals, that we strive to give the same quality of care to all those who seek our services. It is equally important for people of color who are seeking mental health services to advocate for themselves as they seek treatment for themselves. Learn more about self advocacy at NAMI.org. For more on Racial Disparities in Mental Health Treatment visit SocialWork at Simmons’ blog

* You will have to forgive me using an old friend as the source of my material, he also happens to be one of the most-read authors on civil liberties on the internet!

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Love and control

Some things in life are mutually exclusive; control and love are two of those things. Love is surrendering to faith in the unknowable and belief in the good that resides within us all. We fool ourselves into thinking that when we have the upper hand we have security. You can control yourself, but try to control another person or a situation and you will find that you have nothing. Love is not the absence of fear, but the knowledge that there is something greater that can be found in trust.

-Sea

© 2010 Stacey E. Aldridge

What is Love Addiction

What is love addiction?

Very simply, love addiction is an addiction to the feeling of being “in love”. I think that in one sense, this cheapens the word “love” and often when talking about it I put the word love in parentheses. The feeling associated with “in love” is often just the high of a new infatuation. An article in the Huffington Post, is most accurately titled “Falling in Love Affects Brain Much Like Addiction, Scientists Say”. I think it should be the opposite really, drugs affect the brain much like love. The article says: “Intense passionate love uses the same system in the brain that gets activated when a person is addicted to drugs,” said study co-author Arthur Aron, a psychologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.”

What this means for the love addict is often a pattern of short, intense relationships; because he or she (for ease of reading I will use “she” throughout this post) does not realize that what is felt in the beginning of a relationship is a high and not actually “in love.” It can create a pattern unique to love addicts: finding “the one” and falling “in love”, being consumed with thoughts of them so that she can barely eat or sleep, having an inappropriately quick and intense courtship, moving in with them full of plans of being together forever, and eventually walking up in bed next to a virtual stranger whom she often does not love or even particularly like. I call it, “chasing the high.”
At that point, red flags ignored during the “in love” portion of the relationship become clear. Things like a partner’s drug or alcohol addiction; anger problems; inability to process emotions; trouble with intimacy; and huge age, political, religious, geographic and/or lifestyle differences; etc.) Once identified, these problems are then rationalized away by deciding that they were not “the one” as previously thought. The love addict promptly “falls in love” with someone else, usually before extricating herself from the current relationship.

This can all be even further complicated by codependency. If you think you may be codependent or a “love” addict, the first and most important thing to remember is that there is hope. Recovery is possible. It may not be easy, or quick, or fun, and sometimes it may actually feel worse than before you started trying to get better, but once you make the decision to change – change is possible.

-Sea

© 2012 Stacey E. Aldridge