An Inclusive Litany

11/12/02

The Boston Globe reports that a group of Boston psychologists and social workers is seeking official recognition among mental health professionals for "post-traumatic slavery disorder." They claim the condition is caused by intergenerational trauma resulting from slavery and characterized by crime, drug abuse, broken families, and low educational achievement.

Sekou Mims, among those who recently taught a symposium on the subject at the Simmons Graduate School of Social Work, says it helps explain why his own black 16-year-old son experienced a sudden psychotic breakdown characterized by racially paranoid delusions, even though the boy "didn't go through one-tenth of what I went through." (The boy has since recovered.)

The group's findings differ somewhat from those of Harvard University psychiatrist Alvin F. Poussaint, who wrote in 2000 of "post-traumatic slavery syndrome." Unlike a "syndrome," a "disorder" is expected to result in a consistent set of symptoms, while Poussaint argued "the trauma of slavery goes across all diagnoses and no diagnoses." Still, Mims said that "black people as a whole are suffering from PTSD."

[Ed.: Interestingly, Omar G. Reid, a psychologist who conducts support groups for troubled men of varying incomes and promotes the PTSD diagnosis, told the Globe "that black and Latino males were showing up 'in droves' with similar symptoms."]

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