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Environmental contributions to mental disorder for African Americans

Julia Hastings, MSW, PhD, School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley, 120 Haviland Hall #7400, Berkeley, CA 94720-7400, (510) 642-5584, jhasting@berkeley.edu, Briggett C Ford, ACSW, MPH, PhD, School of Social Work, University of Michigan, 1080 S. University, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1106, Lani V. Jones, PhD, LICSW, School of social Welfare, University at Albany-SUNY, Richardson Hall, 135 Western Ave., Albany, NY 12222, Steven J. Trierweiler, PhD, Program for Research on Black Americans, Research Center for Group Dynamics, University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research, 426 Thompson Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248, Sophia Hussen, MPH, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 295 John Morgan Building, 3620 Hamilton Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104, and Harold Neighbors, PhD, Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health, University of Michigan, School of Public Health, 109 S. Observatory, Ann Arbor, MI 48109.

Epidemiologic and clinical studies show that African Americans face a multitude of environmental exposures that increase risk for serious mental illness. For example, the trauma literature provides substantial evidence that links exposure to violence to major depression. Environmental insults contribute to a number of co-morbid conditions such as PTSD, hypertension, overweight, and diabetes. To complicate the problem, environmentally based barriers such as geographic proximity of services and poor public transportation place significant barriers in front of African Americans attempting to gain access to mental health care. Finally, when African Americans do receive care, they are at increased risk for treatment inequities like inappropriate medication and errors in diagnosis. Public health social workers play an instrumental role in correcting such problems among African Americans and other racial/ethnic groups which have had difficulties entering various parts of the medical care delivery system. In this symposium, six presenters will explore a range of approaches to understanding how physical and social environments affect the prevalence of comorbid conditions, access to care, and mental health treatment for African Americans. As a symposium, these papers will further understanding about the impact of environmental exposures, at multiple levels, on the mental health of African Americans in the community and in treatment settings. The ensuing discussion will raise new inquiries into the role of culture in research on mental disorders from the researcher, practitioner, and client perspectives.

Learning Objectives: Participants attending this session will be able to

Keywords: Health Disparities, Mental Health Services

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Panel: Environmental Contributions to Mental Disorder for African Americans

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA