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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Protest or power? The mental health implications

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Inspired by the questionable shootings and deaths of the men in our community. 

If you had to choose between the two, which one would it be? Which of these feels more empowering to you? Which of these is most beneficial to your mental health? In a study on the mental health impact of participation in riots and protests, which consisted of 52 studies from 20 countries/regions, the following was discovered:  

The prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder ranged from 4% to 41% in riot-affected areas. Following a major protest, the prevalence of probable major depression increased by 7%, regardless of personal involvement in the protests, suggestive of community spillover effects. Risk factors for poorer mental health included female sex, lower socioeconomic status, exposure to violence, interpersonal conflicts, frequent social media use and lower resilience and social support. Mental Health During and After Protests, Riots and Revolutions: A Systematic Review iSupport of Social Protests,” published in January, suggested that collective actions may reduce depression and suicide, possibly due to a collective cathartic experience and greater social cohesion within subpopulations. 

Conversely, in a study linking the connection between mental illness and the perception of power, it was found that there are higher concentrations of people with mental illness at both ends of the perceived power spectrum. The two ends are described as 1) those who feel supremely powerful, and 2) those who feel totally helpless, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley“Mental Illness Linked to Perception of Power. 

“People prone to depression or anxiety reported feeling little sense of pride in their accomplishments and little sense of power,” said lead author Dr. Sheri Johnson, a University of California Berkeley psychologist. “In contrast, people at risk for mania tended to report high levels of pride and an emphasis on the pursuit of power despite interpersonal costs. 

So, on one end of the power spectrum reside feelings of powerlessness and helplessness, which weaken the immune system, making one more vulnerable to physical and mental illness. On the other end, an inflated sense of power which is among the behaviors associated with bipolar disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, which can be both personally and socially damaging. 

Here is a suggested balanced perspective for consideration that most successful and culturally intact communities practice. It is framed in a self-reflective activity for you to participate in.  Read the following passage from an anonymous interview on cultural and racial differences.  Insert the name of your community in the blank spaces: 

“We want to see (blank) man happy, so we employ him. We eat together.  We spend time with each other. We want his kids to be educated, so we invest in our own schools that offer our children the technical abilities to change the world’s power structure in our favor. We want to see the (blank) man safe, so we purchase and organize our own communities.  We want him to remain (blank), so we reduce the outside influence of others ideologies and cultures.” 

How did this activity resonate with you? Does your representative community inserted in this activity already behave in the manner suggested above? Does your community have the appropriate self-perception of power needed to implement these methods? If not, should it? Can it? The answers to these questions will reveal yourself perception of personal power. 

Specific to our community, consider all the issues of protest that have been had past and present.  With regard to our future, evaluate the effectiveness of continued protest as a strategy.  Lastly, determine the resulting collective impact to be had positively or negatively, on our state of mental health.  Then ask yourself which would you choose, protest or power? 

As a therapist and board member of the Indy Black Chamber of Commerce (IBCC), we are actively addressing the relationship between our collective mental health and the state of our perception of power as a community. We are promoting a more effective way to address our plaguing issues. The IBCC, through its Mental Health Disparities initiative, is presenting community workshops and hosting discussion events for collective collaboration. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Larry Williams Jr., president of the IBCC. 

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