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Lecturers examine mental health among African-American women

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Reagan Gavin | @RGavin_DE

Reagan Gavin | @RGavin_DE

Reagan Gavin | @RGavin_DE

By Tyra Wooten

Counselors from University Housing are sponsoring a discussion Thursday surrounding mental health issues among African-American women.

The seminar, titled “My Sister’s Keeper: Mental Health Affecting African American Women,” is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Grinnell Hall. It was organized as part of the university’s monthlong series of events for Black History Month. 

Natasha Zaretsky, associate professor in the history department who specializes in modern women’s and gender history, said institutional racism and inequality are reflected in our current healthcare system.

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“What makes this especially troubling is that there is a lot of evidence that suggests that racial discrimination itself can take a heavy toll on physical and mental health,” Zaretsky said.

Zaretsky added that socioeconomic factors disproportionately affect African-Americans, as 20 percent were uninsured in 2012.

Magnolia Hood, staff counselor in SIU Counseling and Psychological Services, said the seminar will be presented in a lecture-discussion format and primarily focus on African American women.

“It can be important to get information on how to support others with mental health issues as well as know how to practice self-care and advocate for yourself if needed,” Hood said.

Hood said mental illness can be caused by a number of factors, including biological, environmental or situational.

Relationships, family dynamics, self-esteem, self-image, or certain traumas, she said, especially impact women of color.

Zaretsky said African-American activists have long understood that health is a political issue. In the 1970s, the Black Panther Party set up healthcare clinics in Oakland and Chicago, where members of the community could receive medical examinations.

“Activists established these community clinics because they recognized that mainstream medicine was failing to address the needs of most African Americans,” Zaretsky said. “They saw health as a key component of the struggle for black freedom and autonomy.”

Staff writer Tyra Wooten can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @twootenDE.

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The student news site of Southern Illinois University