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Renowned Psychologist Highlights African American Mental Health Awareness Week

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Dr. Thomas Parham to discuss theory Nigrescence, translated as: 'the process of becoming Black.'

By BVN Staff –

“Replace misinformation about mental health and erase prejudice, fear, and blame, thereby reducing stigma and disparities to the African American community.”

That’s the message set for the week-long African American Mental Health Awareness Week, February 13-18 at UC Riverside.

African Americans in the United States are less likely to receive accurate diagnoses than their Caucasian counterparts.

Schizophrenia, for instance has been shown to be over diagnosed in the African American population. Culture biases against mental health professionals and health care professionals in general prevent many African Americans from accessing care due to prior experiences wi th historical misdiagnoses, inadequate treatment and a lack of cultural understanding; only 2 percent of psychiatrists, 2 percent of psychologists and 4 percent of social workers in the Uni ted States are African American.

It’s one of the biggest misconceptions people have – that mental illness can’t happen to them, says renowned psychologist Thomas A. Parham, PhD. Dr. Parham, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Counseling and Health Services, at UC Irvine joins an impressive slate of professionals putting the issue of mental health disparities among African Americans front and center on the Riverside Campus. For the past 30 plus years, Dr. Parham has focused his research efforts in the area of psychological nigrescence and has authored numerous articles in the area. Writing in the areas of identity development, African Psychology, and multicultural counseling remains his primary focus. He is the co-author of a book entitled The Psychology of Blacks: An African American Perspective 2nd ed. , and the author of books entitled Psychological Storms: The African American Struggle for Identity and Counseling African Descent People: Raising the Bar of Practitioner Competence.

“Mental health problems and illnesses can affect anyone at any age, and everyone can benefit from improved mental health,” says Thomas, who recognizes that the stigma surrounding mental illness is often a huge barrier to understanding, diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Parham believes that academic excellence is facilitated and strengthened when students have a strong mind, healthy body, enlivened spirit, and clear aspirations, nurtured in a supportive environment.

“At UCI, we strive to create an academic ambiance which reflects the building blocks to Wellness. Through instructional and co-curricular experiences, students learn to master the six building blocks to a healthy academic experience, and a brighter future ripe with possibilities.

Honoring Black History Month, Dr. Parham will present “The Challenges of African-Centered Parenthood: Nurturing the Next General of Young Minds and Souls.” Monday, February 13 – HUB 302 South - 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Also on tap are mental health notables Àdisà Àjàmú (Ah-dee- Sah) (Ah-jah-Moo), Executive Director of the Atunwa Collective, a Community Development Think Tank located in Los Angeles and V. Diane Woods, Dr.P.H. , M.S.N., RN. Dr. Woods, Founding President and CEO of the African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County.

Àdisà served as the founding program manager (2007-2011) for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) (AAMFT/MFP) where he was responsible for the design, development and implementation of the Minority Fellowship Program for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

In conducting her community-based participatory research with the African American population, Dr. Woods has been funded by many agencies including the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in Washington, DC. In 2005, Dr. Woods was designated a Health Disparities Scholar by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Currently, Dr. Woods is the director for the statewide California Department of Mental Health Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP) African American Strategic Planning Workgroup.

The week-long forum will also feature a panel discussion focusing on African American male-female relationships, and how mental health is a critical component in a healthy relationship. UCR professor Dr. Scott Brooks, among others, to present.

“The goal of this week is to help heighten awareness of mental health in the African American community and encourage people to put misconceptions and stereotypes to rest,” said Dr. Carolyn Murray, Professor of Psychology at UCR.

Murray said Mental Health Awareness Week is designed to heed the voice of the African American community and respond to concerns about inappropriate treatments, identify barriers, develop strategies, and explore resources and tools that wi l l enhance the restoration of mental health wellness in African Americans.

The events are open to the public. Admission is free. For more information contact: Ross French at (951) 827-5893 - E-mail: ross.french@ucr.edu.

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