Director’s Innovation Speaker Series: Implementing Radical Healing Strategies to Promote Health Equity
JOSHUA GORDON: Thank you very much. It is my pleasure to have Dr. Helen Neville here, today. I will have more to say about her and her talk in just a moment. First, I just wanted to go over some housekeeping notes if I could have the next slide, please.
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With that, it is again my pleasure to welcome Dr. Helen A. Neville. Dr. Neville is a professor of Educational Psychology and African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. She is the past President of the Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity, and Race, which is the APA Division 45. She is also past associate editor of the Dr. Neville is a past Associate Editor of The Counseling Psychologist and of the Journal of Black Psychology and a fellow of the American Psychological Association. She is active in the Association of Black Psychologists, having served on their Board of Directors and received their Distinguished Psychologist
Her research has really focused on the intersection between race, racism, and African American psychology. She has published this research in a wide range of journals and co-edited or written eight books in the area. In our discussion earlier, Dr. Neville and I talked in particular about a focus on the concept of color blindness and how it doesn’t necessarily mean what it might seem to mean. In fact, it can be associated with other indices of racism and dispelling the notion that one can be colorblind in a society such as ours in a way that is productive.
Dr. Neville has been recognized for this research as well as her mentoring efforts. She has received the APA Graduate Students Kenneth and Mamie Clark Award, the APA Division 45 Charles and Shirley Thomas Award for mentoring and contributions to African American students and community, and the Winter Roundtable Janet E. Helms Mentoring Award as well as the APA Minority Fellowship, the Dalmas Taylor Award for Outstanding Research. So she does all of the things that we expect of an academician and does it exceedingly well.
She enjoys working with and in the community teaching and lifelong learning as well as fighting for social justice, as I am sure you will hear about today. Her talk today is on radical healing. Dr. Neville will explain that and more during her talk.
Again, look forward to interacting with her, asking her your questions at the end. Dr. Neville, thanks again for joining us. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say.
HELEN NEVILLE: Thank you so much. I am excited to be here. My notes aren’t showing, but we are just going to go ahead and get started.
I am thrilled to be here. Thank you so much, Dr. Gordon, for the introduction and the invitation to come and talk to you about something that I am incredibly passionate about. That is this idea about radical healing. I also want to honor and give thanks to my parents, Lilian and Chris Neville, who taught me the meaning and purpose about radical healing, social justice, and what it means to live in that path.
I want to first start off with kind of doing a land contribution. I would like to recognize and acknowledge that we are on stolen lands. Currently, I am at the University of Illinois at Urbana, which resides on the lands of the Peoria, Wea, Miami, Mascoutin, Kickapoo, Ojibwe, and Chickasaw Nations. These lands were the traditional territory of these nations prior to their forced removal. These lands continue to carry their stories of these nations and their struggles for survival and identity and joy.
In order to fight against the violence that is currently happening against indigenous people, occupiers of this land must listen and amplify indigenous peoples’ voices while fighting against their complicity. I invite you to continue to explore the histories of the native peoples throughout the Americas and their contemporary survivants.
I wanted to begin with a quote by W. E. B. Du Bois in his foundational memoir, Dusk of Dawn. As many people know, Du Bois is considered the founder of American empirical sociology.
“One could not be a calm, cool, and detached scientist while Negroes were lynched, murdered, and starved.”
I like to start with this because here is this brilliant man writing at the turn of the previous century, observing what is around him and really being compelled to use science and research to improve the lived conditions of Black people.
I will provide a brief overview of what we are going to talk about today. When I was first invited to give this talk, I had a number of topics that I was considering. One was the topic around colorblind racial ideology, which I have spent over two decades researching. Essentially, the way in which I approach colorblind racial ideology is the denial, distortion, and the minimization of the existence of racism. We know from two decades of research that when people deny racism that is associated with a whole range of anti-Black racism and other forms of racism. It is related to lower levels of social justice behavior, lower levels of multicultural counseling, lower levels of multicultural teaching.
While a lot of my work has focused in that area, that is not where my heart is at this particular moment. I really want to shine the spotlight on people of color, our strengths and healing. So, today, this will center that emerging work.
I will talk a little bit about health equity and radical healing. Really briefly discuss what is the difference between healing and radical healing. I will build a brief context for the radical healing in psychology. I will introduce the psychology of radical healing framework. I will end by talking about five implications of - what I think implications are for radical healing, particularly for NIMH as they move forward.
There are a number of different definitions of health equity. On what is my left, you will see the CDC definition. I would like to highlight for us the definition that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has.
“Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care.”
Our conversation today will be focused on mental health, but you can see – and mental health – I really like this idea about healthy as possible. I define that in a broad way. Many times when we think about healthy as possible we think about deficits. Right? Lower levels of depression. Lower levels of anxiety. I also include with healthy as possible our right to live joyful lives, to have satisfying, purposeful lives.
What is radical healing? I am going to start off with kind of just a general notion of what is radical healing. I know some people are going to have questions like, huh? What is this? Trust the process. By the end of our conversation today, we will have at least a general understanding about some core tenets of radical healing.
What is radical healing? It is being and becoming whole in the face of identity-based wounds. It is challenging and changing oppressive conditions. I am particularly interested in looking at radical healing among Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. It is recognizing and fostering agency and solidarity and resilience. And it is also building the capacity to act upon one’s environment for one’s individual wellbeing, but also the collective wellbeing.
Really radical healing is a healthy equity framework. You probably can see some of the parallels in what I have just said so far. It focuses on attaining full health with a focus on mental health among BIPOC folks. It works to identify and change obstacles hindering mental health among BIPOC populations and communities. And it strengthens or it is designed to strengthen individual and collective resiliencies to promote mental health.
So, a lot of times when we present this people ask, well, what makes this radical? What makes radical healing radical? Many times my fellow folks from the Psychology of Radical Health Collective borrow from what Angela Davis says. When we think about radical we really mean thinking about getting to the root causes of a particular phenomenon.
Breaking that down even further – well, actually, I remember one time giving a presentation and this presentation was the first time I was thinking about some of these concepts. My partner in the audience asked me to differentiate between radical and liberal healing. That was something I hadn’t thought deeply about. I just want to share some observations and thoughts there to hopefully differentiate what we mean by this liberal or everyday type of healing compared to radical healing.
So, there is this health equity example, the ETR Health Equity Framework. There are some really good things that I like about this framework. It does include systems of power. It does include some of the physiological responses that many other frameworks don’t include. It focuses, though, on these individual factors where people are responsible for transforming their behaviors. Sometimes – I am not saying that is from this framework, but sometimes that leads to blaming people, themselves, for the inequality, blaming them for their food choices, blaming them for crime in the community, as opposed to taking a more structural view.
There was - in 2017 the APA published the “Stress and Health Disparities Report,” in which they talk about racism and the influence of racism on African Americans and other people of color. In there, they discuss and they outlined the research on individual interventions, such as culturally adapted stress management, encouraging people to improve their executive functioning, and way of coping with and tamping down their emotional responses to racism. They talked about promoting positive parent-child attachment and teaching parents specific parenting skills. Nothing wrong with that. And then they went to community interventions, things like access to health care and health promotion, increased economic opportunity.
Then if we were mapping onto that a radical healing perspective, it looks a little – there are some similarities, but there are some key differences. At the individual interventions, these might be things like sociopolitical development, increasing one’s critical consciousness. It deals with mental liberation and racial and ethnic cultural pride. Also included here is this idea of self-care and leisure. We are under-studied in that area of self-care and leisure as if, again, we are unworthy of those incredible, important – I think that they are rights, human rights.
Family and group interventions deals with advocacy, coalition building, intergenerational storytelling, racial socialization forums. So it is moving to transmitting positive cultural traditions.
Community interventions – all the way from healing circles, education forums. I think the Association of Black Psychologists are doing a really good job of the Sawubona Healing Circles that the implemented during COVID-19, where they were providing online support for people in the community as they were dealing with stressful events.
And then societal interventions are really reparations, redress, reconciliation. Putting some of the other societal interventions, but adding a more equity lens to it.
So, in terms of thinking about the difference between this liberal versus radical, just a brief summary. The liberal/everyday healing adopts a person-level focus, in general. It focuses on the wound in the healing process. It promotes individual health and wellbeing. BIPOC voices, for the most part, and experiences may be incidental to the research.
The radical healing adopts more of a multisystem level approach. It considers the root causes in the healing process. It looks at both individual and collective healing and really tries to center the voices and experiences of BIPOC folks in the middle.
Why do we need radical healing? I don’t even know if we need to even talk about that. I know folks are here because you are concerned about structural racism. Of course, the great awakening during 2020 with twin pandemics or some people call syndemics of the health pandemic of COVID-19 as well as increased awareness of racial discrimination and anti-Blackness. That spurred lots of conversation and interest in thinking about and thinking through the impact of racial discrimination, on disparities of health, both physical and mental health.
There have been a number of published systematic reviews and meta-analysis linking the association between racism and individual psychological health. In the public health literature there is research documenting things such as when people live in cities or states that have higher levels of shootings of unarmed Black people that is related to lower levels of their reported health. We know that it also exists on these other broader levels.
I am going to move now to really unpacking radical healing and then discussing the psychology or psychological framework. We know that a lot of the things that we think about builds on the important work of people who came before us and the people who are with us now.
The roots of radical healing in the psychology literature builds on the rich tradition of liberation psychology, Black psychology, and intersectionality. Because of time I won’t have enough time to delve into each and key components, but let me just talk about and highlight key aspects.
Liberation psychology focusing on self-determination and liberation, both on an individual level dealing with mental liberation as well as a group level and dealing with self-determination.
Black psychology is within the tradition of liberation psychology. We see this emerging with the Association of Black Psychologists in the late 1960s and with Dr. Joseph White, who publishes “Toward a Black Psychology”. I love the fact that this first piece was published in Ebony, which is focusing on a Black journal. Here, we talk about a strengths-based model because previously Black folks, the way in which they were research was looking at a deficit. We see Black psychology looking at mental liberation and strengths-based approaches.
I love the inclusion of intersectionality. Of course, we have to mention the work of Kimberle Crenshaw, who is doing such critical work in this area. We think about the ways in which racial oppression intersects with other forms of oppression, including gender, sexual orientation, class, et cetera.
There are some contemporary folks that we draw on heavily, including Lillian Comas-Diaz, who talks about ethnopolitical psychology, and Thema Bryant Davis, who is the current incoming President of the American Psychological Association, who really for decades has been looking at the psychology of like healing from racism - really important - and Shawn Ginwright, who explicitly talks about radical healing among youth in the education literature.
So, let’s now delve into the psychology of radical healing. I want to introduce you to a group of people that are just amazing. When I was president of Division 45 of the APA, the Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity, and Race, the presidential theme then was looking at healing through social justice. I put together what I call the Dream Team, which are these amazing scholars and practitioners that you see here, Dr. Bryana French, Dr. Della Mosley, Dr. Hector Adames, Dr. Nayeli Chaves-Duenas, Dr. Grace Chen, and Dr. Jioni Lewis.
As part of that, they really thought through how do we think about this and construct the psychology of radical healing framework. That framework was published in The Counseling Psychologist. It first came out online in 2019 and then it was published two years ago. I am just going to give you some numbers just to tell you how much this resonates with people. I think somewhere between – well, 40-plus thousand people have already viewed or downloaded the article.
All of us that are part of the Psychology of Radical Healing Collective have presented research on various aspects of this. It seems to speak to the communities in which we talk to that people say I appreciate looking at healing that incorporates who I am as a person, but connects it to the communities in which I belong to. So, there is something there in this emerging framework that we have. There is more data that obviously needs to happen. But we are on the beginning parts of this journey.
I will identify some of these core tenets or core areas. I will talk about each one separately. Some I will spend more time than others. And then I will think through what does this mean for recommendations for the NIMH.
When we think about radical healing, we really think about this dialectic where people experience these interlocking systems of oppression and hate: racism, sexism, class exploitation, homophobia, transphobia, et cetera. But we are more than just the kinds of oppression that we experience. We also have our own cultural traditions and strengths. Our identities in communities exist outside of that forms of oppression. In addition, we are envisioning justice and liberation. We are envisioning a society in which we do not live with the constraints of these forms of oppression.
We will talk about critical consciousness, cultural authenticity, and self-knowledge, radical hope, emotional support, and strength and resistance, not necessarily in this area – in this order.
When we deal with critical consciousness, I think this is one of the areas that has the most developed both conceptual and empirical literature that really captures what we want. Of course, when we think about critical consciousness, we have to acknowledge the important work of Paulo Freire and his Pedagogy of Hope. We know that Freire was influenced by people like Frantz Fanon and others.
There are these three kind of critical components that people tend to operationalize. One is this critical reflection. This is awareness that structural issues impact my lived experience right now. Being able to name racism or name sexism or name their intersections. There is a notion of political efficacy that not only do we have this level of awareness, but that we believe that we can do something to make a change. We have this critical action where we actually do some direct action to make changes.
Just a really small, trite kind of example, I was – during COVID-19, my sister is 20 years older than me and wasn’t able to get vaccination in her area. I listened to some of the reports that people were saying of here are some strategies. We knew early on that African-Americans did not have the same access to vaccinations. I got on the phone. I called all of the city reps that were in her area. People responded to me. And I passed that along so that others can use the same strategy to get people in their families and communities vaccinated. That is just a small way of just thinking smally about political efficacy and seeing that that actually worked.
There is a number of research being done in this area. I really like the work coming out from Josefina Banales and Elan Hope and Stephanie Rowley and other people working within there. They are empirically thinking through what are models of critical consciousness among youth, what are processes in terms of family processes in which youth can kind of develop these, and what are some of the educational and other outcomes. Most of the research done in this area focuses on youth.
We also have Roderick Watts who does research in this area, as well.
“Critical Consciousness in Children and Adolescence”, here is a systematic review that appeared in the Psych Bull. It talks a little bit about what component is leading to greater outcomes. Each one – some are more effective than others among certain groups.
So, we are getting some data here. The data is complicated. It doesn’t always work the way that we want. We need more sophisticated data to look at additional processes.
Cultural authenticity and self-knowledge. We want to resist the colonized ways of practices and ways of knowing. We know that our communities have a range of ways of knowing about health that we need to tap into to honor ancestral wisdom and cultural teachings about ways to promote health. It requires also a sense of definition and cultural authenticity in which Black, Indigenous, and other people of color are not just defined by their oppressors.
Research in this area – there is a whole range of research in this area, particularly focusing on racial and ethnic identity and the importance of racial and ethnic identity. I feel over the past five decades research has advanced in this area. Just the recent issue of Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology has a whole section on racial socialization and ethnic racial identity and the importance and processes of that.
Other cultural kinds of practices – there is more and more research being done on the importance of drumming and drumming on health being done in a communal area, music. Of course, we have the effects of Shinrin-Yoku, which is forest bathing. There are a number of meta-analyses that talk about forest bathing, which the concepts emerge from Japan, and its benefit on reducing depression and anxiety. It has greater benefits on psychological health than it does on physical health. That, essentially, is being in nature and actually using the senses that you have available to you to take in the healing components of that. It could be trees. It could be a forest. It could be a park.
Collective emotional and social support. We know that there is a number of research in this area. Some of the more innovative ones that I think we need more research has to do with we know that people seek connection with one’s community and they receive support from that. There was a recent report that the Association of Black Psychologists did in collaboration with the Alliance for National Psychological Associations for Racial and Ethnic Equity. This is an important report. I encourage you to go out and get that.
What they did was during COVID-19 they did a needs assessment of communities of color. I remember when Dr. Cheryl Grills presented this work first at the National Association of - ABPSI, their conference. She talked about these findings. The report covers this. They interviewed and assessed over 2,500 people from around the country about their experiences during COVID, resources that were available to them.
One of the things that struck to me is that she concludes with this we are our best medicine. Really through these interviews what they found was the ways in which people of color, specifically Black Americans, dealt with the isolation and dealt with COVID-19 was to talk to one another. That was what they identified as the most helpful. It deals with more of this collectivity that many BIPOC groups have.
Newer research is emerging on this creating counter-spaces that affirm one’s identity and healing. These counter-spaces can be Black Twitter. They can be these electronic spaces. If you are on college campuses, they could be the racial ethnic studies and cultural houses. If you are in your community, they can be churches or other kinds of support groups. These are ways that we build a counter-narrative to the dominant narrative that says that we are problems, that we are just oppressed people. That also builds and supports individual and community health.
Strengths and resistance, just using individual and collective resources to transform environments and promote joy-filled lives.
I am going to spend a minute talking about radical hope. The healing process – this is a quote from Shawn Ginwright, who writes both about radical healing and radical hope among youth.
“The healing process fosters hope, which is an important prerequisite for meaningful civic engagement and social change. Together, healing and hope inspire youth to understand that community conditions are not permanent, and that the first step in making change is to imagine new possibilities.”
I am so thankful for my ancestors who toiled this land to build the wealth of this country not to give up, to realize that there is the possibility of a better tomorrow, one that they might not have seen, but one that they were able to sow the seeds for so that we all can benefit, not just other African Americans, but society as a whole.
When we think about hope, one of the most – models that come up is Charles Snyder’s model. This is traditional hope. It is probably one of the most cited models. Hope, here, is viewed as this problem-solving kind of future-oriented concept that consists of agency and pathways. People have a sense of agency like I have been pretty successful in life, I energetically pursue my goals. They know that they can achieve things to these pathways of getting to what they desire or their personal goals in the future. I can think of many ways to get out of a problem.
We know that these notions of hope, these individual notions of hope are helpful. They are helpful for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. They are helpful for the general populations to deal with palliative care, to deal with cancer, the whole range of issues. Here is one recent meta-analysis that talked about the effects of media stories on hope and recovery on suicidal ideation. What they found is that having these media stories of hope were helpful in reducing suicidal ideation, but not necessarily in help-seeking attitudes and intentions.
What of collective hope? If we are a collective community that values that and we are dealing with some incredibly challenging and difficult times when we see people in our community put in cages, when we see individuals in our community being shot and killed and having them be on TV, that takes a toll on us. We sometimes begin to think will it ever get better?
I am thinking about the groundbreaking work of Brendesha Tynes on the impact of viral videos. We know that youth who watch these videos of what was happening in ISIS and with immigration and what is happening with the shootings that impacts us. It can have people thinking, wait a second, is this permanent? Will things change? That is why we need a notion of radical hope, which extends beyond our individual efforts to understanding that society can change and that we can be part of that.
Radical hope involves the steadfast belief and the collective capacity contained within communities of color to heal and transform oppressive forces into a better future despite the overwhelming odds. The Psychology of Radical Healing Collective have a conceptual model that we put forth that looks at the interdisciplinary literature all the way from there are whole ideas about resistance studies to history to sociology to psychology to religious studies to begin to unpack what does this collective hope look like.
Some of the key features here that I want to kind of cue you into is that hope can exist both as this collective form, thinking about the people who are similar to me or other oppressed groups, seeking justice, living a better life, and then it can also have more of this individual orientation of me – for me it would be me as a Black American, what does hope mean for me? It looks at both collective and individual.
And it takes into a broader range of a temporal look. People who know the Sankofa bird, which is the Ghanaian Adinkra symbol that is a bird that is moving forward while looking back. What is behind us is going to inform how we proceed forward. It looks at the past, present, and future. That is what we are suggesting that radical hope does.
I do not have time to go into each kind of dimension or tenet in more detail. Briefly, broad stroke areas is history of oppression and resistance, the awareness that we come from people who have experienced horrible, horrible conditions. Whether it is attempted genocide, whether it is enslavement, whether it is labor exploitation because of our identities, we have experienced that and we have survived through our resistance, not just acceptance of our conditions. It is important to understand that our resistance has helped transform society, helped end slavery, helped promote voting rights. Our resistance is pushing for a more just society not just for BIPOC people, but for everyone, pushing for democracy. There is lots of historical work that documents this.
The other is envisioning possibilities. Think about Afrofuturism. I love the work that is being done by psychologists now on Afrofuturism. Thinking about multiple possible selves. Thinking through – writing about what our future is going to look like. There is some now emerging data that suggests when you ask people to reflect on these possible futures, it actually increases a sense of wellbeing.
Other aspects are the meaning and purpose. Not only is it important that we understand that hope is a possibility, but it is part of how we see ourselves and the contributions that we would like to make to future generations as well as having a sense of awareness and pride in our racial and ethnic identity and our ancestors.
We just completed a qualitative study that begins to unpack these dimensions and expand this model more. We are in a process of developing a quantitative measure so that we can begin to explore the impact of this collective and individual radical hope on BIPOC health.
Some of the key points that I would really like for you to take from this is that the psychology of radical healing is a health equity framework. That emerging research supports – begins to support tenets of the framework. That more research is needed to test the model in a more wholistic manner that looks at both individual and collectivist wellbeing. I think people do – psychologists focus on individual. We have wonderful public health research that focuses on the collective. Really it is important to merge those two. More research is needed to support the development and evaluation of interventions based on the psychology of radical healing.
What does this all mean for say NIMH, people who are interested in this who are looking at research in health disparities? I talked to a range of people in thinking through some of these recommendations. I put forth these recommendations knowing that you are already along the process. Some you have maybe involved in and others not. You may completely disagree with the recommendations. That is fine. I also understand that the NIMH, after the report of the disparities between Black, Latinx, and Indigenous researchers in terms of receiving RO1 grants that NIMH has been doing some internal work to think about, well, what is going on and research along that area. I have had a chance to look at that report. So, I tried to offer things that were different than were already considered.
So, one, is to transform funding practices. Really think about adopting fair and equitable and what I would like to name is this idea of race-consciousness scoring practices. Some of the other things – the bullet points here, below, will nod to what would a race-conscious scoring practice be. It is not necessarily giving people who are from an underrepresented background more points. It is deeper than that.
So, to ensure diverse and knowledgeable perspectives on racism and equity on review panels. Who is on the panel? Who is on the review panel? Do they look at – what is their personal experience? What is their educational experience? Do they understand this? Not just say, oh, I read articles, but is there some formal training in this area?
To invite community practitioners representative of the target populations on review panels. Many times we are inward-facing and looking at the science as opposed to being outward-facing. How does a community receive our research? Do they identify this as an important area? What do they see as the implications of findings in this area? That is where I really see adopting a strengths-based approach is pretty important.
Include formal training in equity issues, especially related to targeted populations in the scoring application rubric. So, here is – some people might have lots and lots of research experience and NIMH funding, but have not done any research or formal training with African Americans, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian American populations. Yet, some of them are receiving funding and doing research that could potentially do harm to our communities. It is important to think about what is the training of the PI. Have they taken formal classes, formal training in this area? Just like I know if I said I am going to do some statistical analysis, people are going to want to know are you trained to do that. It is the same in terms of these issues. It is not just okay to have consultants. It really should be the people driving the conceptualization through the process.
Encourage panel reviews to consider multiple epistemologies, axiologies, and ontologies. Really, how is it that we understand data? What are some critical perspectives? What is our world view about what research actually is? Here, this is a nod to de-colonial perspectives. It is important that when we invite people to review panels that we just don’t expect them to acculturate to a system that has already reinforced inequity, whether it was unintentional, but there is a reinforcement of that. We want people to push the system to think in different ways, who think differently from us. A piece of that is people who adopt different epistemologies of understanding what even data is and what is good science. I know that Neil Lewis has an excellent article in a recent issue of The American Psychologist that grapples with this.
Identify radical healing among BIPOC as an NIMH priority. I know that the NIMH has four high level strategic plans. I think the fourth goal could – something around radical healing among BIPOC could fit nicely into that. I also know that the NIMH has five priority areas in health disparities. Radical healing adds a health equity lens to what is already being done in NIMH because it operates from a strengths-based approach as opposed to a deficit model. It incorporates culturally syntonic approaches to healing and resilience as opposed to just focusing on disease and disparity. It emphasizes both individual and collective healing. As we reviewed the health equity models earlier, it intentionally includes actions to dismantle oppressions.
I was really excited to see among the five priority areas in health disparities, work with community members looking at more participatory/collaborative research. Kudos to all for thinking about that and funding in those areas.
Create support and fund radical healing spaces. I want to give a nod to a rather – a fairly older book, Healing Spaces: The science of Place and Wellbeing. This focuses literally on physical environment and built environment. But I think we can build on this by thinking about what are radical healing spaces. Radical healing spaces are physical, social, and virtual communities that promote health and thriving, particularly among people of color as they work to transform the environments that they are in.
I have an example here. This is from a book, an edited book that I did with Lou Turner – that I edited with Lou Turner, who is a Fanonian scholar and a philosopher. The book deals with Franz Fanon and contemporary practices that build on Franz Fanon’s teaching. We had the honor of interviewing Dr. Lewis M. King, who was the director - Founding Director of the Fanon Research and Development Center in Los Angeles. It is not a center anymore.
What is really interesting about this is that this center was funded by the NIMH in the 70s. There were these centers out there wanting to do this critical psych work. They did phenomenal work in terms of creating this healing space, where community members could feel comfortable coming in, identifying the issues that they thought were important. They offered therapy. They also had artists who came in. They had politicians who came in or folks who did policy work. And they had researchers, interdisciplinary researchers, geneticists, psychologists, historians, political scientists. All grappling with the issues that the local community identified as important. The local community wanted to work on education equity and issues dealing with police. They developed paradigms and did research and wrote policies on that. That is an example of a radical healing space.
We have other examples such as the Children’s Defense Fund, the Freedom Schools. They focus on developing critical consciousness among African American youth. They focus on instilling a sense of culture and history and building on strengths. They look at collectivity. We have examples of that and data to support their efficacy.
Establish a reparation exploration group. That is a word right there, right? I know there is a case for psychiatric reparations that they have been considering. Many times people erroneously think that reparations is just compensation, but we know that it is much more than that. It is about justice. The United Nations identifies five areas of reparations that are critical to look at. The one that is most relevant I think to the NIMH work is rehabilitation, dealing with psychological and physical support. It would be important to think about what is NIMH funding to develop and provide free psychological and mental health services to those people most impacted by histories of racial oppression. What does that look like?
There are already agencies working on that. I know the William T. Grant had some – had a support for research on reparations for Black American descendants of enslaved persons. This would dig deeper to really think about the institution and what reparations means in terms of mental health in this country. That would be looking at and ensuring that our science is meeting the needs of our communities. We know our communities really would like and need and deserve support to foster health and wellbeing.
The last is to fund a health equity policy institute. I think many of us are thinking about these issues in isolation. If we don’t have people strategically looking on this and a long-term process, we lose continuity. Many times we are in siloed areas. We don’t have this cross-pollination.
The Fanon Center that I mentioned earlier had their thumb on the pulse. Such an institution would focus on producing research, publications, and policy work on health equity in BIPOC communities. It would consist of interdisciplinary scholars. We want the biologist, the psychologist, the historians, the theatre people, the political scientist, the lawyers, other folks in humanities, all thinking together about this issue. We need multiple perspectives.
And then part of this would include pathways to funding through NIMH Fellowships associated with the policy institute. These would be NIMH-funded dissertations, pre-doc, post-docs, and visiting fellows.
Those are some of my dreaming big with you things that I am inspired by radical healing that I hope will generate some discussion. I want to thank you all for listening patiently.
I want to do some shout outs to the members of the Psychology of Radical Healing Collective, members of the Liberation Lab, specific people that I checked with about these recommendations and just had questions about the presentations, Drs. Hector Adames, Nayeli Chaves-Duenas, Bryana French, Jioni Lewis, Sharon Tettegah, and Brendesha Tynes. Thank you.
JOSHUA GORDON: Thank you very much, Dr. Neville. It was really wonderful talk discussing the radical healing framework and a plethora of recommendations for us to consider, both in the context of that framework and other approaches to our emerging priorities in disparities research. I will just point out to you that there are several thank yous and wonderful talks in the Q&A and the chat.
I have plenty of questions to chose from and we have just a handful of minutes. I am going to start with one which I find directly relevant, perhaps, to the radical healing framework. The question asks how do we find a balance between claiming hope in order to improve our mental wellbeing while still naming the violent reality that exists for many communities – many BIPOC communities?
HELEN NEVILLE: That is such an important question and a realistic question because you don’t want to have people have a false sense of, oh, we are going to move forward so let’s not think about that. We know – and some research – that righteous rage and anger could be important. We can’t move forward unless we name whatever our particular position is now. I think that is so important.
The way that hope comes into play is it means that we are not saying and things will never change. It is saying we are experiencing this currently. How do we get ourselves out of this?
So, for example, let’s think about apartheid. I remember in the early 90s in grad school where I was thinking apartheid is not going to end in my lifetime. Just imagine if people said apartheid is a consistent thing. There will never be an end to it. People like Mandela and others people didn’t say, no, I believe that change will ultimately come. If that happened, we currently would not have the most progressive constitution in the world. If people weren’t thinking behind the scenes about a tomorrow when it happens. I think we can hold both possibilities in hand.
JOSHUA GORDON: Thanks. I will just point out that many people have also put in there thanks for the inspiring and hopeful work that you are doing.
Along those lines, as you suggested, we, at NIMH and at NIH more broadly, really are concerned very much about improving the equity of the review and grant-making process. There is one question here that notes that importance and then asks the question do you have any recommendations for guidelines for scientific review officers, those who run the study sections for NIH, how they might consider restructuring a review or educating reviewers, particularly around that one point you were making that we insist on evaluating for adequate training of PIs in this work?
HELEN NEVILLE: I just want to say I didn’t have my notes and there was something I wanted to say earlier. I went to public schools. I attended a university that I probably would have never gotten into. I am speaking to a funded agency that I have not received funding from and may never receive funding from. I feel like a little bit of an imposter to say here is what you need to do.
However, I did talk to people who have received funding from the NIMH in preparation for this. I think having greater representation of who is actually in the room. If you have people – I am a Black studies scholar. I will just say from my perspective if you have someone who fits your criteria that is also trained in the discipline or have people in Black studies or Black psychology or whatever their area is, they will be able to help you think through what the possibilities are.
In terms of looking at the scoring, I am not sure. It could be including a question, can you please outline your training and experience in dealing with the population that you are proposing, and to really encourage people to think thoughtfully in that area.
JOSHUA GORDON: Thank you. There is another question here about the radical healing framework. It asks how can stigma be addressed in that framework. I suppose there might be various definitions of stigma. I will let you choose which one you might want to use.
HELEN NEVILLE: I am going to choose internalized oppression because it fits within the model. There has been – I know Alex Pieterse recently has a meta-analysis that deals with internalized oppression. I know that E.J.R David has done a lot of research on internalized oppression. We know that when people internalize negative messages about their racial group that that is associated with poorer psychological outcomes. The stigma has to do with the stigma of being of that group.
A piece of this, the counter of that, the way that this is – is developing the critical consciousness because a piece of that is uncovering the awareness. That blends in with that cultural authenticity and knowledge that promotes one’s racial and ethnic identity. Racial and ethnic identity could be having a sense of cultural pride, can be a buffer against a lot of issues. So, the stigma means how is it that we challenge internalized oppression. I think the model allows pathways to that.
JOSHUA GORDON: There is a question which I will rephrase in order to help frame it properly. You discussed the context of the radical healing framework primarily with regard to BIPOC individuals. Of course, diversity and disparity afflict other underrepresented and discriminated against groups. This question is specifically about disability.
I am wondering if you can talk about how this framework might apply to individuals with disabilities or to the questioner’s point, the intersectionality between racism, other disparities, and disability.
HELEN NEVILLE: Thank you so much. That definitely is a growth area of mine. I appreciate the question. I think the framework is designed to take that into consideration, to think about what are the ways in which Black, Indigenous, and people of color – how disability might relate to people’s experience. So, we need to be much more conscious and develop research around persons with disabilities who are BIPOC, how to build on those strengths that talk about both race and ethnicity, and take into consideration their various forms of ability status and disability.
I think the framework is flexible enough. That is definitely a growth area for me.
JOSHUA GORDON: Thank you very much again, Dr. Neville. The kudos keep coming in. If you need an ego boost, just look at some of the Q&As. Some of them are in the answered section. Really a lot of appreciation here for the work, for the recommendations, for the representation, as well. Thank you.
I want to thank everyone for attending from NIMH and from far beyond. We had hundreds of attendees. It is wonderful to see this engagement around this issue. I look forward to seeing you all at our next Innovation Speaker Series talk. A reminder again if you would like to recommend your friends, colleagues, and others to see the talk, it will be posted online at the NIMH website in the coming weeks.
Thanks, Dr. Neville.