General Order No. 3 or…what/who is holding us back???

I remember my first therapy session like it was yesterday. It was a beautiful, sunny day. I was rushing over to the office after work, racing past people on Market Street like I was in the final lap at the Penn Relays. My mind was running its own race, perhaps swifter than my feet.  Jesse Owens on the ground, Usain Bolt between the ears. How would this person be? Would they relate to me? Would I allow myself to be vulnerable? For some reason, the warm smile of the security guard as I signed in to get onto the elevator – handing me a tissue to wipe my sweaty brow -- is a picture I can recall clearly, even so many years later. When I signed out about one hour later, I felt lighter, more than satisfied. And I pondering more questions. Why haven’t I looked into these issues before? Did I not think I was able to do so? What held me back? Those questions began a journey I hold very sacred.  A journey of family, of tradition, of values, and of culture. A culture I remember us discussing during one session – about holidays and what they’ve meant in the context of my family.  Juneteenth came up. Well, I raised it. They were familiar, but I had to [...]

2022-06-06T13:53:25-04:00June 13th, 2022|Community, Racial Equity|

Why Mental Health is So Important to People of Color

As a Black man, I am continuously aware of some of the stigmas surrounding mental health from both a gender- and race-related perspective. More often than not, people of color feel that these services may make them look weak or that they are broken. However, taking proactive approaches – whether it be simple wellness practices such as yoga or meditation or more substantive ones such as structured therapy – could not show more strength.  As a licensed clinician myself, as well as someone reared by a parent with clinical depression, this is a topic very close to home. Quite frankly, seeing my parent struggle to hold conversations and even maintain simple tasks at home because of crippling depression, has molded me into someone passionate in the fight to remove stigmas around mental health. As a professor of psychology, I sought to infuse much of my own experiences in the area of mental health to help frame the minds of future educators and clinicians. In our current culture, with the pandemic as the backdrop and social media serving constant pressure to promote life not always rooted in truth, the presence of depression consistently lingers – as we have seen in suicide reports. Finally, I implore my fellow people of color to ignore some of the antiquated stereotypes of seeking therapy [...]

2022-02-10T10:38:52-05:00February 10th, 2022|Lived Experience, Mental Health, Racial Equity|

We Breathe, We Live. Brothery Love Protest Stories

“We Breathe, We Live. Brotherly Love Protest Stories” is a made-for-television film presenting first person experiences of men who participated in the George Floyd protests in Philadelphia during the summer of 2020. Gabriel Bryant, Engaging Males of Color (EMOC) coordinator for the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services in Philadelphia, wrote a guest post on that highlighted his experience and the approach to the film. Here is an excerpt: We identified seven men of various backgrounds, ages and experiences to share their story, as we prepare for the one-year anniversary of this infamous murder and subsequent summer of protests. Where were they? How did they feel? What was it like to be on the ground in the marches? How has this trauma affected them and/or their loved ones? The director of the film, Glenn Holsten, brought a brave and innovative vision to catalyze and link the ideas presented in the film. These rich stories, plus the inclusion of spoken word poetry and conversations with our DBHIDS EMOC colleagues, give life to a moment that was a peak example of dehumanization. This film has further resonance since we find ourselves in Mental Health Awareness Month; additionally seen in the relief of millions now that Chauvin has been convicted of his charges. “We Breathe, We Live. Brotherly Love Protest [...]

2021-05-30T14:31:55-04:00May 24th, 2021|Community, Racial Equity|

Closing the treatment gap: Time to address inequality within mental health

By Sosunmolu Shoyinka, MD DBHIDS Chief Medical Officer Two months ago, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services and the City of Philadelphia took the occasion of Mental Health Awareness Month to remind residents -- especially during this difficult and unprecedented time of COVID-19: “You’re not alone. Help is out there.” Much has changed in the national dialogue since early May. And now Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, recognized in July of each year, gives us the opportunity to look more closely at overall mental health awareness -- and focus on the shortcomings of mental health treatment among minority groups. Mental health issues are not limited by race, gender, sexual identity, or anything else. Sadly, data suggest that access to mental health care does have limitations. This is particularly the case for minority populations. Across the United States, minority groups are less likely to have access to mental health services, less likely to use community mental health services, more likely to use emergency departments, and more likely to receive lower quality care, according to a report from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. They are also disproportionately impacted by socioeconomic determinants such as housing, food and financial insecurity, inadequate health insurance, exposure to violence, unemployment and lower access to quality education. The disproportionate impact of the [...]

2021-01-28T23:04:59-05:00July 7th, 2020|Community, Pandemic, Racial Equity|
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