Is it the "stigma" of getting mental health services that keeps more African-Americans from seeking them? Not entirely. Dr. Arthur James, one of two keynote speakers at the May 2nd Breaking the Stigma: African-American Mental Health Symposium, a new conference in Kalamazoo, cites access as a factor as well.
"We have not generally had equitable access to mental health services, and so we have had to seek alternatives for a long period of time for treatment, including (from), of course, the church in our community, the elders in our community," James said.
In an advance interview, Dr. James, an obstetrician and gynecologist specializing in black infant mortality and racial health disparities, said structural racism is often at the root of the sharp differences in outcomes between African-Americans and whites in health care and other areas.
He spoke about this and other topics in a telephone interview scheduled to air on the WestSouthwest news and public affairs show on Monday, April 29 at 7:34 a.m., 9:34 a.m. and 4:20 p.m. on WMUK 102.1 FM, the National Public Radio station based at Western Michigan University. (Click on the icon to listen now.)
James, who now lives in Columbus, Ohio, used to be medical director for the Family Health Center in Kalamazoo, medical director for Bronson Methodist Hospital's Women's Care Clinic, and founding medical director of Borgess Medical Center's Women's Health office.
In 2010, James was presented with the first Healthy Babies Healthy Start Arthur James Award, named after him and to be given annually. It recognized his local efforts to address the high rate of black infant mortality in the Kalamazoo County area.
Jeff Patton, chief executive officer for Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, will be the second headliner at the summit.
The African-American Mental Health Symposium takes place Thursday, May 2 from 8:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m. at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Kalamazoo. Six workshops, two keynote addresses, and a panel discussion are planned. There is a fee to register.
The event is hosted by the Greater Faith Empowerment Center's GFM The Synergy Center with Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services, the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, and the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region.
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