205722 Telling Our Stories: An ethnographic examination of mental illness and recovery in communities of color

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mareasa Isaacs, PhD , National Alliance of Multi-Ethnic Behavioral Health Associations, Washington, DC
DJ Ida, PhD , National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, Denver, CO
Brenda A. Leath, MHSA , Westat, Rockville, MD
Chandria D. Jones, MPH , Westat, Rockville, MD
There are many barriers that create access and utilization challenges when it comes to mental health. In communities of color, mental health is viewed with fear, stigma, and shame. The myths about mental illness and the lack of appropriate education tools reinforce the fears and stigma associated with these conditions. Moreover, because mental health services and programs are not often “visible” in communities of color, they are not familiar resources and are not considered in help-seeking behaviors of many people of color. Due to the fact that many people of color experience the more negative aspects of mental health care, they often question the relevance and effectiveness of mental health interventions for their situations.

NAMBHA and Westat are exploring strategies and tools to convey the message that mental health issues occur in all communities and that culture and language play an important role in helping people recover. At present, we have created a collection of narrated photo-stories in which consumers who have experienced mental health problems talk about their journey. These stories put a more personal face on the struggle to live with mental illness and can be used as outreach, engagement and educational tools. The stories can create discussion around ways to overcome systemic and community barriers to seeking interventions for mental health problems and reduce racial and ethnic disparities. These tools could also serve to educate mental health providers, program developers, and educators about the unique experiences and cultural variations that need to be considered in reducing disparities.

Learning Objectives:
- Demonstrate how consumers of mental health services can use stories in their own voice to present a respectful, culturally sensitive and unique perspective on mental health problems that raises the consciousness of how culture, language, historical trauma, social economic status, and other related issues impact mental health systems in communities of color and the importance of providing culturally and linguistically competent interventions. - Discuss how opportunities for dialogues and discussions within communities of color can be facilitated so that some of the myths, mistrust, stigma and shame of coping with mental illnesses can be informed by education and greater community awareness. - Explain how the selected format can be used as a training tool for students in the social sciences and related mental health areas and professionals so that they gain a better understanding of what is helpful and how different ethnic groups define, experience, and recover from a myriad of mental health problems.

Keywords: Culture, Mental Illness

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Dr. Mareasa Isaacs, Executive Director of NAMBHA served as the Principal Investigator on the project and had oversight related to planning tasks as well as administrative and fiscal reporting on the project.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.