National Center for the
Dissemination of Disability Research

Webcast 22
Rehabilitation and Recovery of African-Americans
Experiencing Severe Mental Illness

February 10, 2010

About the Webcast

African-Americans make up approximately 12% of the U.S. population, a total of around 36 million people. Evidence suggests that African-Americans suffer from significant and persistent disparities within the mental health system. African Americans with severe mental illness are less likely to access mental health services, more likely to drop out, more likely to receive poor quality of care and more likely to be dissatisfied with care. Dominant patterns of treatment for African-Americans with psychiatric disabilities are often least suited to long-term rehabilitation.

To be successful, interventions must simultaneously target three levels: societal, provider, and patient. The presenters discuss five domains that cut across these levels. These are (i) cross-cultural communication; (ii) discrimination; (iii) explanatory models; (iv) stigma; and (v) family involvement. These need appropriate research and action to enhance the psychiatric rehabilitation of African-Americans. Potential solutions to overcome barriers raised within these domains are also discussed.

About the Presenters

Photo of Rob Whitley, PhD

Rob Whitley, PhD is Research Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Dartmouth Medical School and adjunct Assistant Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology, Dartmouth College. He is trained as a medical anthropologist with considerable experience working with various marginalized and minority populations in urban settings. He is principal investigator on a National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) funded five-year study of recovery among low-income African-Americans with severe mental illness in Washington DC. This study is being conducted in partnership with colleagues at Howard University. He has published over 50 peer-reviewed papers on issues related to social and cultural psychiatry.

Photo of William Lawson, MD, PhD

William Lawson, MD, PhD, is currently Professor and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Howard University College of Medicine and Hospital. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He is certified by the Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in General Psychiatry and has Added Qualifications in Addictions. He has received state, federal, and foundation support for pharmacological research and to develop new and effective treatments. These grants have allowed Dr. Lawson to realize his dream of studying the interaction of culture and genetics in ethnicity and mood disorders. He has over 100 publications involving severe mental illness and its relationship to psychopharmacology, substance abuse, and racial and ethnic issues. Dr. Lawson is Co-Principal Investigator for the NIDRR-funded DRRP, "Building Knowledge and Capacity in the Rehabilitation and Recovery of African-Americans Suffering from Severe Mental Illness: The Dartmouth-Howard Collaboration."

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This webcast is supported through the National Center for the Dissemination of Disability Research (NCDDR), which is funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) in the U.S. Department of Education, and is supported in part by ILRU. The opinions and views expressed are those of the presenters and no endorsement by the funding agency should be inferred.

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