Looking Through Cultural Lens: Mental Health & Well-Being

Looking Through Cultural Lens: Mental Health & Well-Being

Mental Health versus Physical Health

Historically mental-health has been associated with ‘illness and dysfunction’, adding on the stigma attached to it and hence the results are a skewed mind-set of the reality of human-wellbeing.

Just like our physical health we are a collection of our overall wellness. When we don’t eat healthy, exercise regularly or have ‘unhealthy’ habits such as smoking, not getting enough sleep, too much time on the computer. All these along with others can lead individuals into categories of higher risk for high-blood pressure, diabetes, heart-disease and so on. Medical professionals will explain the risk-factors to us, if we have access to adequate healthcare.

However, physicians and the larger society will rarely ‘blame & shame’ individuals for ill-health. That is not the case when it comes to mental health. We and the larger society have begun to shift our thinking as it relates to our psychological wellness. In fact, if you ask yourself right now “What is the first thought that comes to mind when you hear Mental Health?” Many would respond with the phrase ‘illness’ or even rattle off diagnoses, like schizophrenia, bi-polar, depression. The question becomes ‘Why?’ does mental-health imply disease, when physical-health does not?

Mind-Body Connection-Whole Person Care

Again, history has shown that connecting our physical bodies to our psychology being has been a struggle. It may be because of the things we cannot tangibly see associated with our psyche. The focus is often on visually seeing behaviors or other actions which do not fit into the narrow parameters of ‘normal’ then are stamped with the label of ‘abnormal.’ However, there has been a lot of progress since the days of the French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist René Descartes. In fact, the 16th Century Descartes was bold to make this now famous statement, “Cogito, Ergo Sum”, literally translated means, “I think, therefore I am” connecting our psychological functioning and to our physical bodies.

However, it was only after World War II that psychiatric treatment was covered by insurance companies and it in 2008 where the U.S. Congress enacted a law requiring “parity” for mental health, addiction benefits and medical/surgical benefits in private health insurance. The work and goal of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity (MHPAE) Act of 2008 was to eliminate differences in insurance coverage for behavioral health.

REACH Towards Health Care Equity

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention defines health-equity as when every individual has the opportunity to attain their full health potential and no one is at a disadvantage due to socio-economic position or any other socially determined circumstances.  The impact of health inequities is reflected in differences in length of lifespan; overall quality of life; occurrences/severity of illness/disease, disability/death as well as access to care/treatment. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) these health disparities are preventable. We must continue to close the gaps with regards to differences in health status and outcomes.

The CDC implemented REACH (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health) program back in 1999. REACH has served as a national program reducing racial and ethnic health disparities.

Through programs like REACH, those receiving care also play an active role in planning and carrying out community-based, culturally appropriate programs which address a wide range of health issues among Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Alaska Native persons.

Creatively & Effectively Reaching Children/Youth

There are so many local programs and supports which we must acknowledge and highlight. One amazing program is Mental-Hop. Dr. Randy Sconiers, also known as Dr. S, is the founder of Mental-Hop which focuses on Mental-Health Education through Hip-Hop Culture. Dr. S is a New Jersey Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 15 years of experience working with at-risk youth. He has a passion for empowering, servicing, and educating our youth is fulfilled through his professional experiences.

Even or especially during a world-wide pandemic, Dr. Sconiers partnered back in March with New Jersey’s Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) to bring Mental-Hop Symposiums to Juveniles in Secured Facilities throughout New Jersey. To date, Dr. Sconiers has facilitated over 60 Mental-Health Education & Hip-Hop Culture Symposium with youth within the JJC. In July, Dr. S. was featured as a guest writer for Mental Health America in discussing the power of Mental-Health & Hip-Hop Culture.

One of Dr. S’s key quotes is “Mental-Health, Hip-Hop, and Life! Let’s Heal and Go Higher!” A recent podcast is titled, ‘Couches on Concrete-Reimagining Therapy & Creating Healing Spaces’ where he creatively takes the listener on a journey towards understanding & healing. Here is a direct share from the podcast:

I’m talking about when it comes to healing, talking about detachment, so many sort of thoughts and ideas in regards to how to truly help people continue to grow evolving, healing the same thing and thrive. So, I was re-imagining that, and I was thinking about the therapy couch, right? So, this couch that is so symbolic to the therapy office life, you go into this place, and you lay down or you sit down. And when you sit on that couch, there’s an opportunity for you to start to and begin to release what you’ve been experiencing. Now, just a little bit of research around it. Therapeutic to therapy, couch per set. So, in 1890, Sigmund Freud received a couch was like a day bed from one of the people that he was working with one of his clients. And it was it was intended to sort of create this, this kind of cool space or clinical piece of furniture, but was also very intimate, right?

These 30-minute or so talks are so genuine and real for youth to understand that they spark the feelings of someone finally understands and can relate to what I am feeling. The ah-ha moment came when my 17-year-old son was asking me about what I was working on. I told him there was upcoming webinar with Dr. Sconiers When I shared with him you could see the excitement in his eyes and hear it in his voice. He now shares with his friends what I do, or more accurately what Dr. S. does, to help kids get and stay healthy.

Dr. S continued to share on his podcast, ‘Couches on Concrete-Reimagining Therapy & Creating Healing Spaces’:

I was thinking about reimagining therapy and considering the idea of healing spaces, what if we took this idea of the couch that is usually in this office? This space is very confined but can be extremely helpful in healing space and took it outside of the office…Hip hop, the concrete the streets represents the most authentic and raw space and place to be in because that was where hip hop started at…it doesn’t mean we have to necessarily make therapy spaces outside, right on the outdoors…I know therapy is a very private space, and healing is a very private thing sometimes. But the idea is to take what was hidden and take what is so there still to this day has so much stigma in the shame attached to it. Yes, we’ve made strides in getting people into quote unquote therapy and getting people to help that they need. But there’s still more work to do…I think one of the things that we could do is instead of so often trying to draw people to us in terms of coming to therapy and going to therapy, what we can do is get back to the essence of social work and the essence of social work was being in the street, doing outreach, connecting with the people.

Investment in Mental Health & Well-Being For All

In 2013 the World Health Organization compiled a document titled, “Investing in Mental Health: Evidence for Action” Written in the first paragraph in the introduction summary was the following:

Mental health and well-being are fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life. They directly underpin the core human and social values of independence of thought and action, happiness, friendship and solidarity. On this basis, the promotion, protection and restoration of mental health can be regarded as a vital concern of individuals, communities and societies throughout the world.

In addition to investing in support of direct service personnel and supervisors, we must also invest time and resources in ways we can learn from the daily collection of data throughout the human-service fields. One example is work being done by the Health Equity Research Lab, in Massachusetts.  The Health Equity Research Lab is an interdisciplinary group of researchers, clinicians, and community partners conducting research to improve physical and mental health in diverse communities. It is part of Cambridge Health Alliance, which serves as a safety net health care system in the metro-north region of Boston. Its mission: ‘improve the health of local communities with a longstanding commitment to vulnerable and diverse populations.’

Person-Centered Intelligence SolutionPromote Well-Being For All

As more communities engaged their local healthcare networks and providers there will be a continued need for wellness research. The data gained from the research must drive practices in order to ensure and promote health equity. At Opeeka our Person-Centered Intelligence Solutions or P-CIS| pronounced pieces, was created for agencies, organization, and research institutions to have access to ‘real-time’ data. It is only when we capture in ‘real-time’ that we successfully track recovery & resilience, while also proving and improving on each person’s ‘story of success.’

Join Us for our 1-hour Webinar:

 ‘Creative Ways to Support Children/Youth, Especially Those in Foster Care.’

We all have been challenged by the world-wide pandemic, especially in areas of home, work, and community. The effects of COVID have been particularly impactful in the lives of children and youth. They have seen so many changes take place at their homes, schools and with the community they live. The impact on school-aged children/youth has been discussed since early 2019. However, the pandemic for some children & youth compounded their traumatic experiences, in particular those children/youth in foster-care.

“One cannot separate the health of the individual from the health of the community, from the health of the world.”- Hunter (Patch) Adams, MD

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