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Department of Behavioral Health Celebrates African-American Pioneers in Mental Health During Black History Month

Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Highlights Disproportional Impact of Mental Illness on African-Americans


Phyllis Jones—(202) 631-3077. [email protected]


(Washington, DC)—The District of Columbia Department of Behavioral Health recognizes African-Americans who made significant contributions to the field of mental health. These pioneers include:


Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark who conducted groundbreaking studies on race and child development that helped end segregation in the United States
Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller, a psychiatrist who made significant contributions to the study of Alzheimer's disease
Dr. Maxie Clarence Maultsby, the founder of the psychotherapeutic method, rational behavioral therapy
Dr. Freda C. Lewis Hall who was appointed by the Obama Administration to the inaugural Board of Governors for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute
Jacki McKinney, M.S.W., a founding member of the National People of Color Consumer/Survivor Network, and
Dr. Altha Stewart, recently elected the first African American president of the American Psychiatric Association.

According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. Further, African Americans are more likely to experience conditions that increase the risk of developing a mental health condition such as exposure to violence and homelessness. Yet, only about one-quarter of African Americans seek mental health care, compared to 40 percent of whites.


There are a number of reasons for this imbalance—misunderstanding and lack of information, stigma, distrust rooted in historical injustices, heavy reliance on faith and family support, and lack of culturally competent mental health professionals.


“We actively spread the word that treatment is available and treatment works," said Dr. Tanya Royster, MD, Director of the Department of Behavioral Health. “More than 86 per cent of the people we serve identify as African- American. All residents benefit when our communities are healthy—and that means that DC will be a thriving community.”  Dr. Royster, a child and adult psychiatrist, received her MD in Medicine from Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and a BA in Psychology from Purdue University,



DBH operates a 24 hour Access Helpline, 1-888-7WE-HELP or (1-888-793-4357). You can talk to a mental health counselor any time, day or night, and choose a mental health provider that best meets your needs.


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