UCARE Hosts Black Mental Health Discussion

A student presentation led the Ursinus community through the history of black mental health, including psychological, biological, genetic, and environmental factors.

Esther Lawson-John ’20, a member of Ursinus’s Health Experiences Across the Lifespan (HEAL) Lab, presented these topics through video selections from Joy DeGruy’s emotional 2008 talk in London where she discussed black mental health, post-traumatic slave syndrome (PTSS) and racism with members of the healthcare community. DeGruy is a nationally and internationally renowned researcher, educator, author and presenter. 

Lawson-John’s presentation was sponsored by the Ursinus Center for Advocacy, Responsibility and Engagement (UCARE), which serves as a hub for community engagement and social advocacy at Ursinus College.

DeGruy’s examples spanned from the dehumanizing language that police officers have been caught using to discuss black victims of crimes, the false rhetoric scientists once used to treat black individuals as “others” that has bled into current society and the word choices made by the media to describe white and black survivors in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Other topics mentioned included: the prison-industrial complex; healthcare and health insurance access issues; the social stigma surrounding mental illness in the black community; and debt-servitude as another form of slavery.

Lawson-John says she was inspired to pursue this research topic to clarify common misconceptions about mental health in the black community, explaining it “is affecting the way black people are being treated by mental health practitioners today and is preventing them from getting the help they need.”

Following the presentation, Lawson-John facilitated small group discussions surrounding these issues. —By Mary Lobo ’15