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Doreen​ ​Okeh

Period 2

Transcribed Interview #3

DO: Hello Ms. Coffee! Thank you for being able to have this interview with me! Now, I have a
couple of questions scheduled. And my first question is, could you please elaborate on the major
differences in treating black individuals in comparison to any other racial group?

VC: Sure! I think when we talk about particularly African Americans, in terms of treatment for
mental health, there a number of things that make it challenging, I think, for starters, there's such
a stigma that's attached to mental illness when it relates to the African American community. So
first of all, getting us to the place where we feel comfortable, acknowledging that we need some
type of mental health treatment or support. That's kind of the challenge. Again, because of the
stigma we have, as a people, a strong reliance on our faith, our family and our friends. And so we
will more likely go to those resources first, before we actually seek out support from an actual
formalized mental health facility or counseling or resource center.

DO: I agree. I think it's very important that we acknowledge stigma and its hindrances. And how
do you believe or how do you think untreated mental illness and neglect of this topic could
possibly hinder an individual in the long term science?

VC: So I think what happens with untreated mental illness in all populations, but particularly,
again, just speaking to the African American community, we see problems manifest itself in
other ways. So for instance, we address mental health, but it's always after it's-it's become a crisis
that impacts our behavior. So for instance, rather than getting treatment for mental health,
oftentimes people will self medicate. They will take marijuana or take other types of drugs and
alcohol, to try to get away from the feelings that they're feeling, whether it's depression, or
anxiety or stress, will use substances to treat ourselves rather than go and get help. And so the
way we start seeing problems is through addiction. And, you know, we start having challenges
with being able to have jobs. So unemployment rates are issue unemployment rate, or issues of
poverty. Also health conditions. I also know that research shows that incarceration is another
impact of mental health conditions. There is a really high percentage of people who are
incarcerated and have conditions that they just didn't ever didn't go and seek help for, but get
arrested or get picked up for petty things. This is another challenge; when people don't get the
help they need, they start having difficulties with with their housing, and as a result we see a
large population of our homeless that live with mental health conditions.
DO: Thank you very much for bringing up the issue of homelessness and its relation to mental
illness. So also, what efforts do you believe can be done to reduce the gap between religious
leaders and mental health professionals in deciding the proper care for an individual?

VC:
An area that I worked in for the past four years, dealt with educating our people and providing
awareness and education, because I think sometimes in the African American community, we
tell each other with your experiences extreme sadness, or you're depressed, and you should just
pray harder or to be being a very strong Christian. And so I think the first thing is to educate
people about just the prevalence rates, like one in four, and in some instances, one in five people
live with a mental health condition. And that's not different when it comes to the African
American community. So you have to educate the faith leaders, and help them understand how to
message emotional distress in the illness, and help them understand that it's not okay. And it's not
helpful when they say things and preach from the pulpit. Things that perpetuate stigma, so
saying, you don't need medication that's from the devil or medication, you just need to pray
harder. Some of the things I mentioned earlier, like educating them about mental illness, and that
it's just our mental health is just as important as our physical health. And that we are one system,
you know, it's not like you are physical health from the body down from the neck down. Your
physical health is impacted by your mental health and vice versa. So helping them understand the
same way, their diabetes and cancer and all those things. They wouldn't tell people you know,
don't go take your chemo or just go pray about it, you'd be walking just fine. I mean, so we just
have to help educate them to understand better understand mental illness, as well as the stigma
that's tied to it, as well as the different resources and support that are available.

DO: Thank you. The next question is that that the African American community is in the midst
of many demanding issues, such as the continuous battle against police brutality, and the Black
Lives Matter movement. So do you believe that these issues take away from the needed attention
and discussion about mental health?

VC: Actually, I believe that they add to the conversation and and they add to the topic because
all of the things that happen around. The violence towards African Americans and police
brutality and fear of just our personal and community safety, all of those things impact our
mental wellness, and they cause stress. And then when people experience some of those
incidents that have taken place, that's trauma. And trauma is one of the leading causes. You
know, one of the things that impacts a person's wellness and ability for someone to stay well, is
their experience and interaction with trauma. And so just being black in America in itself can
impact your mental health. And so I think it adds to the conversation and should definitely, we
should always consider as we're talking about those issues, we should always include mental
health and wellness in that conversation.

DO: That is extremely true. So in addition, to what extent do you believe African Americans
may hesitate to seek professional assistance due to family opinions and their influence?

VC: I think family and prayer play a huge role in whether or not someone chooses to get help. I
think if they are in an environment where it's acceptable to get help when you're not well, in any
situation, whether it's physical or emotional, I think that you know people are more likely to seek
help. But if they have a family that you know, does not support treatment and or they've had a
negative experience may not get the support.

DO: I do agree with that, Dr. Coffee. Thank you for that insight. Then finally, the last question I
have for you is what do you believe is the most important factor for mental health professionals
to consider such as yourself when treating African American patients?

VC:The most important thing to take into consideration all the many things that impact a
person's mental health. So I think you can say this for this entire population or for just black
people, but you have to really look at the person's total life to see him. Do they have a family
history and do they, you know, suffer trauma from abuse or neglect at home n previous years.
You know, it’s all about taking a larger look at things and seeing the entire picture to see how to
best assist these patients.

DO: Well thank you very much Dr. Coffee for your valid insight on this essential topic! I very
much appreciate you sacrificing your time.

VC: No problem Doreen! Now have yourself a great day sweetheart.

DO: Thank you ma’am. Goodbye.

Reflection- I conducted an interview over the phone with a mental health professional. Her name
is Dr. Vicky Coffee and she is a licensed psychiatrist at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr.
Coffee provides information about the physical impact of mental illness into the body in a
long-term period. Coffee explains how mental illness is often times overlooked because it does
not appear as does physical infirmities. She further elaborates on why we should have the same
sensitivities to hidden cognitive infirmities as to physical ones. Dr. Coffee concludes by
mentioning the impacts of trauma on an individual