Happy Black History Month!
As a black psychiatrist, I want to take this time to celebrate and honor the contributions of African Americans to our society and the mental health field. It has been a long and tumultuous journey for African Americans in mental health. Our history is one of mistreatment, misunderstanding, and stigma. From the early days of the Transatlantic Slave Trade to the present day, African Americans have struggled with poverty and hence, access to quality mental health care.
However, despite the obstacles, African Americans have persevered and made great strides in mental health. From Dr. Carl Rogers’ pioneering the person-centered, also known as client-centered, approach to psychotherapy and developing the concept of unconditional positive regard while pioneering the field of clinical psychological research to the work of Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, who concluded that segregation was psychologically damaging. This conclusion played a pivotal role in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court case that outlawed segregated education., African American mental health professionals have made significant contributions to the field.
I cannot but reference Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller, born in Liberia, the son of a previously enslaved African who had purchased his freedom and emigrated there. He was a pioneering African American psychiatrist who significantly contributed to the study of Alzheimer’s disease at Westborough State Mental Hospital in Westborough, Massachusetts. While there, he performed his ground-breaking research on the physical changes to the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Dr. Fuller was one of the first known Black psychiatrists and worked alongside Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who first discovered the traits of Alzheimer’s disease in 1901.
So, during this momentous month, let’s take a moment to honor the accomplishments of African American mental health professionals. Let’s continue encouraging and supporting those in the African American community struggling with mental health issues. Despite the challenges, there is hope, and there is help. Each of us is unique, and we can find our path to healing. We can find strength in our shared history and the knowledge that we can make a difference. We at Pinnacle Behavioral Healthcare are here to listen, encourage, and help.
So, let’s come together this Black History Month and celebrate African Americans’ mental health accomplishments. Let’s take the time to reach out to those in our community who are struggling and let them know that hope and help are available. And let’s remember that we are all in this together.
Happy Black History Month!
Olukayode O. Awosika, MD, FAPA.
1. A history of Lent and its importance to the culture of New Orleans …. https://original.newsbreak.com/@peaceful-prospects-1600765/2932985369152-a-history-of-lent-and-it-s-importance-to-the-culture-of-new-orleans
2. Carl Rogers, PhD: 1947 APA President – American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/about/governance/president/carl-r-rogers
3. Kenneth B. Clark, Educator, and Psychologist born. https://aaregistry.org/story/kenneth-b-clark-pioneering-educator-and-psychologist/
4. Black Pioneers in Mental Health | Mental Health America. https://www.mhanational.org/black-pioneers-mental-health