Home > Uncategorized > THE STATUS OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN MENTAL ILLNESS IN SKID ROW

THE STATUS OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN MENTAL ILLNESS IN SKID ROW

 

THE STATUS OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN MENTAL ILLNESS IN SKID ROW

By

General Jeff

Skid Row resident, community activist and Board member of the

Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council

March 2011

This is an attempt to address the overwhelming issues associated with African-American mental illness in Skid Row with hopes of reaching a permanent synopsis in totality, a daunting task with many extensive variables equivalent to the utmost of complex mathematical equations which include deeply-rooted parameters that currently co-exist with today’s American culture.

To begin, it is most effective and realistic to identify the most obvious of sectors within the overall mental illness demographic. There are many individuals (exact number unknown) that suffer from severe acute mental illness that can easily be deemed “incurable”. Since the late-1960’s when then-Governor Ronald Reagan was historically credited with shutting down the State-run mental institutions, this sector has been allowed to roam freely without diagnosis, treatment or any type of official recognition from any governing body that admits they even exist, not to mention the fact that they should be accounted for in any and all mental health-related budgets and/or solutions, with a special component in all statistics and formulas for the specific purpose of being a permanent identifying method. Up to this day, this sector has primarily been forced and/or left to hopefully utilize a “self-help” model of treatment towards any possible road to recovery without any direct support from the State of California. Many in this sector are African-American and drifting in the streets of Skid Row.

Note: In order to create a fair and complete document that is to be recognized as absolute, every single sector such as this one must be accounted for with an in-depth analysis attached.

A basic formula that can be applied to any humanistic issue in a mathematical context is the “one-third formula”. From a basic mathematical standpoint, one-third will accept change instantly, the middle third will struggle back and forth with change and the last third will never accept change.

Applying this formula to the mental institution patients that were released in the late 1960’s, 33% had a permanent struggle with having to adapt to normal conditions in society. And from a maximum standpoint, if the entire middle third struggled all at the same time as well, the percentage of struggle would rise to 66%, an alarmingly high number.

Obviously, in order to achieve specific and definitive percentages, much more accurate data would have to be compiled and applied, thereby warranting the need for a much more advanced formula. (Until a universally-accepted formula is created and/or approved, the “one-third formula” will be used throughout this document) From an optimistic standpoint, the maximum percentage for positive change is also 66%, based on applying the same formula. Quite obviously, this is simply the opposite end of the spectrum.

Before proceeding any further, it has to be mentioned that although this is a report that focuses on Skid Row, the following components that affect the overall mental psyche of African-Americans in Skid Row also affect almost all other African-Americans in all of America, in one way or another.

The negative mental effects associated with the first enslaved African-Americans in the early-17th century still linger to this day. Unless a purposeful and intentional widespread effort of reconciliation is officially implemented, African-Americans will always be permanently affected by slavery in America.

The mere fact that no one in the history of the Federal Government (most notably from a Presidential position) has ever openly and publicly apologized to African-Americans for slavery (even as a symbolic gesture) leads one to question America’s sincerity to move forward and thus, generation after generation after generation, a permanently displaced and disenfranchised people exist in America, of which many are blamed and/or looked down upon by non-African-Americans for being a descendant of slaves. (Note: Many descendants of slaves in America are also descendants of kings, queens and Ancient civilizations in Africa which pre-date slavery in America. There is an underlying issue that suggests that African-American history only starts with slavery in America. With each passing year and new generation established, true African-American history is either being overlooked, diluted and/or reduced to an afterthought) The sense of African-American history being seemingly bypassed, combined with any connection to any great African ancestral historical contributions to the world also negated, has had a tremendous and continuous negative effect on the psyche of African-Americans in this country. It can be perceived as America being ashamed of African-American contributions to the United States and therefore any showing of recognition is merely nothing more than the fulfillment of a minimal obligation. From this, there should automatically be a certain level of expectancy of mental illness with every single African-American birth in the United States.

Again using the “one-third formula”, when the slaves were freed in 1865, there was as high as 66% of African-Americans that struggled with undiagnosed and untreated symptoms directly resulting from slavery, which in any other spectrum would be a high enough percentage to be officially declared an epidemic.

With hundreds of years passing by and epidemic levels of symptoms still going untreated, it is obviously safe to deduct that the overall percentage of struggle not only increased then, it still continues to increase to this day.

As of yet, there have been no long-term efforts to offset the permanent damage caused either directly or indirectly by slavery. In fact, history reminds us that continuous negative incidents such as false promises made by slave owners to the slaves promising “forty acres and a mule” to be given to each slave, along with continuous accounts of lynching, cross-burning, various hate crimes and more, all help to create and continue the negative climate of intimidation that African-Americans are forced to accept on a daily basis with no end in sight. The negative mental ramifications from these acts are nothing short of demoralizing, to say the least, to all African-Americans in America.

Add to all of this, the modern-day dilemmas that also contribute mightily towards the overall mental anguish of African-Americans, such as negative stereotypes in the media including film, print and television, the unwritten and on-going efforts of reducing the majority of African-Americans to a state of existence of being nothing more than “consumers”, and last but not least, all issues especially associated with any and all education budget cuts. (With this being an introductory report, we will bypass the extensive attention needed to address each one of the aforementioned “dilemmas” and focus solely on education, which in and of itself, covers multiple overlaying issues affecting African-Americans as a whole. However, we reserve the right to address the other issues at a later point)

Whenever education budgets are cut, it affects the majority of public schools of whose students include the majority of all African-American students, thus making it virtually impossible to obtain a basic level of intelligence equivalent to a high-school diploma or G.E.D. Without a basic level of education, it is highly unimaginable that anyone, African-American or otherwise, could make intelligent life decisions for themselves. This, combined with the long-term effects of slavery, makes for an environment that can be perceived as a “dumbing-down of the people”.

Therefore, with the inability to make intelligent decisions for one’s self, it is easy to assume that a lack of confidence and lowered self-esteem will begin to develop. Then, once an inadequate level of self-worth is realized by the individual, it is not far-fetched to perceive that the existence of disenfranchisement soon follows. Once disbelief in the American system sets in, a sense of “self-survival” will replace it. This is a devastating and mentally damaging phase that one is forced to accept (If in fact it is ever realized) after being born and raised in an environment where society implies to its youth that all one has to do is trust in the American system and all will be fine. The long-term effects from this total disconnect from one’s conscious and subconscious support system is so drastically tragic, traumatic as well as permanent in most cases, that not even the “one-third formula” can be applied.

At that point, there is no longer any reason to stay in school from an educational standpoint, therefore the seemingly only other (and quite popular) option is to completely drop out of school, and thus the reason high-school dropout statistics are rapidly rising. Also, there have been reports of an influx of middle school dropouts for the very same reasons. African-American dropout students make up one of the biggest segments in this demographic.

Now, without a decent level of education and individuals forced to fend for themselves, it is only obvious that improper life decisions will be made. In most cases amongst African-Americans, one will consistently gravitate towards a life of crime as a means of survival. Keep in mind that as these individuals bear children, the cycle associated with dysfunctional families continues to perpetuate.

Also, without a decent education, it is realistic to assume that an individual couldn’t even be successful at a life of crime. This will then lead to an arrest, multiple arrests in most cases, eventually making a “career criminal” out of the individual. After multiple arrests, one will “graduate” to a higher level of sentencing. (Pun intended) The individual will then go from jails to prisons. So much for the “American dream”.

With the State of California having more prisons (33) than any other state in America, it can be perceived that California is a “Police state”. This also has an adverse affect on the collective mental psyche of African-Americans where an obvious disproportion exists in the comparison of African-American’s prison population versus their overall population in the State of California.

Before one can begin to look for solutions, it has to first be recognized that these problems exist. This would then be considered to be the first step in the overall healing process- to publicly acknowledge that these issues indeed exist.

Now, when one applies the “one-third formula” to this point, 33% of African-Americans will heal instantly, the middle third will struggle back and forth with healing and the last 33% will never heal. It is hopeful that over time these percentages would change for the better. History indicates that it would, but first we must get to that point.

When contemplating a permanent solution, one must realize that even in the true “American dream”, all will not succeed greatly. Again, history indicates this to be true. It is only an “opportunity” for success that the “American dream” offers.

So, what, then, can be deemed a satisfactory percentage of a successful solution with a majority of willingness and understanding of the fact knowing in advance that all will not succeed, nor approve of eminent failure? (This must first be determined and universally-accepted, then constructively and concisely planned for and then finally the pursuit of a satisfactorily level of healing can begin) Afterall, the “one-third formula” suggests that even after all healing, apologies and reparations (or other solutions) have been issued, 33% will still not become successful. That is reality and also a glimpse into the possible future “American dream” for African-Americans.

While thinking of solutions, one must first realize that a solely monetary compensation would depend on such an astronomical number, that this option is totally unrealistic.

However, more realistic, long-term solutions can and should include some degree of monetary compensation (reparations for descendants of slavery), a permanent change in scholastic curriculum which should include classes on common sense and etiquette, financial management, parenting and equally important African-American history, slavery, psychology and healing. Also, to address concerns of a lack of economic opportunities that lead towards possible economic independence, economic concessions for African-Americans as it relates to new start-up businesses as in fee waivers for permits and licenses, along with similar gestures (to be determined) would then ultimately lead to a perception of enfranchisement which would therefore extend the depth of the necessary healing process in efforts to overcome the pre-existing, embattled mental psyches of African-Americans in the State of California, extending throughout all of the United States of America.

Please keep in mind that the above solutions are merely suggestive and to be perceived as a starting point on the perpetual drawing board which should lead to the eventual true solutions which would then begin a much-needed healing process for what has seemingly become a negative and never-ending generational cycle of mental illness for African-Americans.

With a Federal Government whose demographics are dominated with non-African-Americans, it can be perceived that this document will fall on deaf ears. History has shown this to be true.

But in this day and age, with the American economy suffering as it is, it is time to include all of us who can bring America back to a level of prominence, prestige and wealth.

It is time to include some of the most creative and brightest minds historically known to man.

It is now time to include African-Americans in the creative process for solutions to America’s economic woes. It is time for African-Americans to heal, clean-up, educate and produce for America and for themselves. Soon thereafter, all of America will benefit.

And trust me, history has shown this to be true.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Rosemarie Wilson
    April 10, 2011 at 3:11 am

    Where are the studies, clinical research, and comments to present substantial documentation? This article is based on opinion and culturally incorrect statements regarding mental illness and the African American culture. Being an African American with these beliefs and perceptions does not make this individual the spokesperson for any African American, mentally ill or otherwise. Skid row is both a unique community and state of mind which is the result of racism, a lack of socioeconomic parity, insensitivity, lack of compassion and choices and opinions with limited progressive outcomes. Mental illness is influenced by environment and exposure or lack of exposure to knowledge of services and accessibility to those services. However, to make a broad statemment about the mental health or causes of mental illness in African Americans is irresponsible and quite racist in your inerpretation. Where are the statistics, mental health and wellness information from credible organization such as National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), National Association of Black Psychologists, California Institute of Mental Health (CIMH), numerous universities in the Los Angeles area; UCLA, USC, to name a few. It might help to expand your knowledge by referring to some of these resources and assist you with a more accurate and realistic focus in your advocacy for those on Skid Row, African american or otherwise.

  2. September 6, 2011 at 7:18 am

    With all due respect Rosemari, just because he is not providing you case studies, stats, synopsis, etc. does not mean that he is not passionate about and an advocate on this issue . You expect him to present in the same manner as the oppressor and the creators of this mental illness. He has created a blog that represents HIS VIEW. EVERYONE IS ENTITLE TO ONE!!!!

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