Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Psychology in the English-Speaking Caribbean, by Tony Ward and Frederick Hickling

Psychology in the English-speaking Caribbean

Tony Ward and Frederick Hickling, (August 2004), Psychology in the English-speaking Caribbean, The Psychologist. Vol 17, No. 8

 

During my research on cultural psychology in my first module of Mental Health Psychology, I stumbled upon the above article, which piqued my interest. As you know, I’ve been looking more and more into my culture – which is unfortunately difficult because St Lucia is a small island. However, this article really struck me, because Jamaica speaks for many in terms of the psychological damage Western imperialism and Colonialism has done to the Caribbean. 

“Surely British society owes a debt to the peoples who were colonised for economic advantage for over 350 years?”

“Sun-drenched beaches fringed by palm trees and turquoise waters, an abundance of rum, a laid-back atmosphere… as the largest of the English- speaking Caribbean islands, Jamaica shapes the view many Europeans have of the region. Few tourists venture far from the resort areas to discover the realities of Caribbean life for the ordinary people. If they did, they would discover a local population struggling to make a living, and areas beset with social problems including drugs and violence. Some 40 years after independence, these societies are still struggling with the legacy of European colonialism. It is within this context that psychology has recently become established, and there is much scope for the discipline to make an impact.

Overcoming the legacy of colonialism
At a time when the British have disowned their empire and schoolchildren are barely aware of this aspect of their country’s history, former colonies are still grappling with the legacy of colonialism. These effects include the virtual annihilation of the indigenous population, the re-population of the region by migration of European settlers, and the forced migration of African slaves. Each European colonial power reshaped the social environment in its own likeness and image, much of which remains in place today. Under British colonialism, the culture of the African majority was suppressed in favour of the minority rulers. The BBC provided the official news, with Sunday worship available at the Church of England in Jamaica. Glissant (1997) wrote passionately about the effect on his home country of Martinique of French cultural dominance, pointing out such anomalies as the local press regularly alerting the population to the first day of spring, in a country where the temperature rarely falls below 30° centigrade. At the end of such domination, populations are left struggling for a sense of identity (see Trimble et al., 2003, for more general discussion of the issue of ethnic and racial identity development).

Coupled to this is the legacy of 300 years of slavery. Whilst modern Europeans may have difficulty seeing why current African Caribbeans should still be affected by the legacy of slavery over 150 years after abolition, it is hard to imagine the effect of constantly knowing that one’s ancestors were forcibly removed from their homeland to work on the plantations of the New World. Most Caribbean people insist that the African retentions of language, religions, and cultural expressions of art drama, dance and music present in everyday life are constant reminders of the major and often traumatic syncretism with European culture.

Most Caribbean people strongly believe that such deep trauma on a people can result in long-lasting psychic upheaval, which must certainly be a question worthy of psychological attention. Such trauma might be evident in the psychological make-up of the individual, for example in feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. More obviously, the total dislocation of slavery and its subsequent impact is likely to have disrupted social and family practices. Such disruptions are quite likely to have permeated across several generations, resulting today in dysfunctional families, poor parenting and difficult relations between sexes. Even if the effect were not as dramatic as some suggest, the ongoing legacy of underdevelopment and economic disadvantage is very real and undeniable.

Furthermore, as people of colour, African Caribbeans have had to endure generations of racial prejudice […] Caribbean psychiatrists from Jamaica and Trinidad respectively, Hickling and Hutchinson (1999, 2000), have suggested that these racial identity conflicts in African Caribbean people – when brought into confrontation with European racism – may be a significant cause of the high rates of psychosis that have been reported in African Caribbean migrants to the UK and Holland.

In our opinion, all of these issues affecting post-colonial societies demand a dynamic response from the psychological profession. There are several other immediate concerns for psychology in the English-speaking Caribbean. Crime and violence is escalating, demanding an input from forensic psychology. The continuation of the plantation economy and old management practices, inherited from the colonial legacy and now perpetuated by the present ruling elite, have contributed to economic stagnation. These factors, and the need to adopt the latest technology, suggest a role for occupational psychology. Troubles in schools, an outdated selection system based upon the old English grammar school hierarchy, and families split by parents having to seek work abroad, all point to the need for educational and developmental specialists. A growing HIV/AIDS problem and mushrooming mental health needs further point to the need for health and clinical psychology.”

“Few tourists venture far from the resort areas to discover the realities of Caribbean life for the ordinary people”.

 

 

WEBLINKS:

Jamaican Psychological Society:

www.jps.org.jm Caribbean norms and test development as well as material on ethno-psychology:

www.neuropsychologica.com

References

Crossman, E., Ward,T., Wright, E., Matthies, B. & Hickling, F. (in press).Validation of the Zung Depression Rating Scale for use in Jamaica. West Indies Medical journal.

Fanon, F. (2000). Black skin, white masks. London:Avalon Travel Publications. (Original work published 1956 as Peau noire, masque blanc)

Glissant, E. ( 1997). The poetics of relation. Ann Arbor, Ml: University of Michigan Press.

Hickling, F.W.& Hutchinson,G. (1999).The roast breadfruit psychosis – Disturbed racial identification in African Caribbeans. Psychiatric Bulletin, 23, I -3.

Hickling, F.W.& Hutchinson,G. (2000).Post-colonialism and mental health: Understanding the roast breadfruit. Psychiatric Bulletin, 24,94-95 .

Hickling, F.W. & Matthies, B. (2004).Training clinical psychologists at the University of the West Indies [Letter to the editor]. West Indies Medical Journal, 52(4), 326.

Trimble, J.E., Helms,J.E.& Root, M.PP. (2003). Social and psychological perspectives on ethnic and racial identity. In Bernai, G..Trimble,J.E., Burlew,A.K. & Leong, F.T.L. (Eds.) Handbook of racial and ethnic minority psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Ward.T. (2002, February). Validation and norms of the University of the West Indies cognitive assessment system. Paper presented at the annual conference of the International Neuropsychological Society,Toronto, Canada.

Dr Tony Ward is Head of Psychology at Newman College, Birmingham (previously a senior lecturer at the University of the West Indies). E-mail: a.ward@newman.ac. ilk.

Professor Frederick Hickling is Head of the Section of Psychiatry at the University of the West Indies at Mona, Kingston, Jamaica. E-mail: frederick. hickling@im>imona. edu.jm.

 

Posted in Blog

Once We Came To A New Home: A Critique 

So if you remember, at the beginning of Black History Month, I saw an Exhibition advertised in Tower Hamlets called: Once We Came To A New Home. 

The Exhibition venue Idea Store on Chrisp Street, describes the art by photographer Cinzia D’Ambrosi as part of a project to “preserve, celebrate and promote” the history of migration and settlement of the Afro-Caribbean communities in White City, London. The photographs of people from the community would be a taster of the main project, which also includes an audio project: real stories from the migrants. I’ve spoken to my Nan about when she first came over from St Lucia to The Isle of Dogs, in the late 1950s and the severe racism she, as well as other migrants experienced from white people within the community in East London, and of course I’ve read Reni Eddi-Lodge’s book.

So, regardless of having seizures or work to do, or a dodgy leg I couldn’t wait to see the exhibition.

However, this is what it was:

BHM

Even the Librarian referred to it as “just a few pictures on a board” when I had to ask for directions.

The Exhibition was so unremarkable that I’d initially walked past it.

I was so devastated for my Nan and her generation, I sat down in an armchair in front of the board and wept. 

Her generation had been let down.

Again.

It made me wonder, who are our grandparents giving their history to? The white Librarian was extremely dismissive; the words: “just” struck through my heart like a knife and clearly she didn’t understand the significance of the pictures. But then, why would she?

Who were the people in the pictures?

Where was the information?

There was nothing to say what they had been through. In fact, the only piece of information on the board was an A4 piece of paper telling the visitor about the photographer, which I found the most insulting part of all.

I decided to contact her through social media and found her through Instagram; Her response was thankful that I had taken the time to go and see the “exhibition” (what a joke), and was apologetic that it was a disappointment for me, however according to her this was out of her hands because of (a) funding and (b) timing – apparently the library had notified her at short notice, of where she would be able to set up. For me this wasn’t an acceptable enough apology and only incited my anger even more, because she wasn’t owning up to her misinterpretation of a very sensitive situation. My Nan’s generation have been disrespected too many times and every time I look at my picture of her “exhibition”, I think: a Black person could’ve done that better. Many people on social media agreed with me.

So I told her.

Our generation are definitely more mindful about who we let tell our stories and who we are celebrating. For instance, November is about remembering those who have fallen, yet the older generation – knowing that the British Empire continues to disrespectfully forget that some of their Black British men have fallen for them, and red poppies do not commemorate Black soldiers – wear red poppies. Why? Because they don’t understand, whereas we as the younger generation do.

Why did these people share their stories with this woman, when they could’ve shared them with their children instead, who would’ve done a better job of commemorating and celebrating those stories? What questions was she asking them? My Nan is in her eighties and is severely disabled, yet myself and my uncles have gotten some remarkable stories out of her.

Clearly the “exhibition was a taster”. The audios are even worse.

I’ve seen the website… Her others are far better.

Why did she go to old people’s homes to do the audios????

Why didn’t she reach out to people’s families????

This generation has slowly been dying for years due to the psychological impact of institutional racism, and now we’re doing them a further disservice by allowing them to die without preserving their history properly.

It breaks my heart.

XOXO

Posted in Blog

Help Me

Sometimes I think the best way of describing a seizure like the tonic clonic I had in May, is like having a stroke, plus a million more, because six months later I’m still struggling to talk, walk and write.

The words are there, but when I’m typing my essays for my MSc assignments, I struggle to form the sentences.

When I talk, sometimes I cannot finish my sentences and I struggle because I can’t find the words in my brain to finish them.

Before that dreadful seizure, and subsequent focal onset seizures, I was weeks away from qualifying to become an English teacher and now I can’t even write my own name.

I’m limping again, because I have a musculoskeletal injury in my left leg, which now appears to be permanent; I have to take painkillers and try to stay active when I can. Sometimes – like this morning – it seizes up and I can’t walk at all.

And this is ALL from epilepsy.

The NHS offers us no rehabilitation; my Practice Manager told me this week that it wasn’t the responsibility of her GPs to know anything about epilepsy when I made a complaint; my University and Student Finance offer some allowances but I have to constantly fight for this: During this module, we have had an exceptionally unhelpful Professor (giving obviously copied and pasted feedback and not replying to emails, not interacting with the class forum (it’s an online course), and while the rest of the class have also found it upsetting, I am the only person who has complained because she was unhelpful while I was in hospital. Thankfully, the Disability Centre chased her with a pitchfork but sometimes I do lie and wonder: if you could see my disability, would life be easier for me?

Who is fighting for me?

I’m so frickin’ tired.

Help (Image source)

On a plus note, I had my first assessment with the Personality Specialist Team (which I of course, asked the GP to refer me to back in February if you remember. See, I have to do everything myself!)

I’m going to be honest, as much as I am happy that it went well, I am disappointed that the Therapist wasn’t black…

Awks (Image source)

I’m still having nightmares about the psychological impact that losing my job has had on me – this includes the severe racism. I am going to talk about the anger, the trauma, and the damage that has been caused to me. I would have preferred if the Therapist had been the same skin colour as me, to be able to empathise. He had a Black medical student sitting in with us – she got everything I was saying, I could tell by her face! She didn’t look shocked by anything I was saying about what was said to me while I was bullied at that school. She had that nod of understanding, whereas the Therapist couldn’t control his excitement and shock, and he also said:

“are you sure that’s what they meant?”

Eye Roll

Over the Summer, I discovered Guilaine Kinouani, a Therapist who created Race Reflections, and  you can also find her on Twitter (which is how I found her).

I’m in awe of her. She’s moving towards the same direction I want to be walking towards and I’ve already reached out to her. I’m inspired by her passion for working with minorities, which drives her career choices and we’ve spoken about the fact that during this module I’m studying – Social Psychology – I’m struggling to find clinical studies on ethnic minorities and I’ve been marked down for using resources and studies that aren’t scientific. However, Psychology is incredibly racist and everybody knows it! The majority of scientific studies are Ethnocentric, particularly Eurocentric (which my current Professor actually disagreed with me on, because she found one study on Black people and faces, but didn’t cite it….. God help me!) Western Psychologists just decided that they couldn’t be bothered to go anywhere for their initial experiments and now one culture is the standard. Anyway, Guilaine has created this incredible model to explain the impact of racism upon the body and mind, however I could never use it as a point of reference in my work, because it’s not a “scientific paper”, however it is based upon scientific fact. This model beautifully explains not only what I went through while I was going through the experience, it also perfectly explains what I’m still going through now. You should definitely check out her website, her work is like no other!

XOXO

Posted in Blog

A Girl Like Me

Chant Speaks

(Repost from my old yahoo blog)

It’s a sin to be ashamed of what you are.

~Annie, Imitation of Life

Black children, self-esteem and beauty standards. This subject matter is so exhaustive and correlates to so many different areas of our lives that I just didn’t know where to start. I am not going to even begin to try to touch upon everything, but I think this is an issue which needs to be bought to everyone’s attention.  Recently, a short film was made by a 16 year old African-American teen, Kiri Davis, on the subject matter of black girls and self image. For those of you who haven’t seen the video you can check it out here:

Note: Original site no longer has video. There is some information here: http://peacemedia.usip.org/resource/media-matters-film-festival-girl-me and I located the video on youtube below:

If you have children, daughters in particular, or have young children…

View original post 1,127 more words

Posted in Blog

A New Found Confidence

I’m currently working on a Research Project on invisible disabilities, particularly discrimination and disability hierarchy theory (which off the top of my head I can’t remember who came up with, but the research behind the theory proves that society shows more empathy towards visible disabilities). 

I had a seizure on Sunday afternoon and therefore spent the rest of the day in bed recovering. It’s now 5.17am on Monday morning and instead of sleeping, I’m wide awake because I spent the day sleeping off the post-seizure migraine.

A LOT has happened this weekend – too much for me to get into right now – to trigger that seizure, because of society’s ignorance, causing me to feel like I’m not wanted. So when I saw this quote, I just had to share:

Quite frankly, I do not give a damn what you think, or whether or not you believe I’m sick because “I don’t look it”. 

It’s not my job to fix your stupidity. 

But one day, you will need me to complete your picture. 

Posted in Blog

Sisters

When things began to fall apart in my career and my personal relationships, I decided that I wanted to seek out new friendships but I was mindful about what type of person I was looking for.

As a disabled person of colour, I’m a double negative minority and the people I was surrounding myself with were not getting that, which was why we were falling out.


I needed sisters of colour around me.


There were actually some sisters that I already knew and I just drew closer to them. They saw me hurting and didn’t even wait for me to come, they just reached out and rang; For example one of them, I hadn’t even seen or spoken to in seven years, reached out on social media after seeing everything I’d been through. When we finally spoke on the phone the other day it was like we’d been talking every day! We’re making plans to meet up soon and we’ve been keeping in touch on WhatsApp.

One sister, I call my little sister. She has been with me through thick and thin. We’ve known each other for years; she was there through the heartache with my family. We started Teacher Training together and we were supposed to make it to the finish line together. She stood by me while my childhood best friend disappeared and I continued to cheer her on regardless of my own situation. Now she’s an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) and we talk on the phone for hours about my woke-ness (she prayed for it!) most weekends and I listen to her tales of teaching teenagers (which I surprisingly don’t miss! LOL). She bought her first car this weekend and I am SO PROUD of her. I can’t drive, you’d think I’d be jel right? Heck no! She saved up for the car, bought it herself ❤️


And then there’s my Bumble Bestie; I just cannot believe I met a sister through a frickin’ app! And one I have so much in common with! Music, art, film, fashion, politics. We’re both in interracial relationships, therefore we both understand the struggles of becoming woke after falling in love and therefore the emotional battle of being constant educators; We both also had very similar traumatic childhoods, almost parallel. I do not think I could longer go a day without talking to her.


I’ve realised that in life, you really do need friends that you can connect with and relate to. It means so much for your self-concept. Before, I was so lonely that I would surround myself with anybody and I would call these people my best friends but they didn’t know me. They didn’t know when I was really happy, sad or really suffering.


Now I have friends I can go to when I’m feeling suicidal because I’ve had multiple focal onset seizures all afternoon and can’t get out of bed.

Or when my partner has accidentally said dumb shit about structural racism and thinks I’m overreacting to his comments.

Or when I’ve been able to go for a jog for the first time in a year.

All of my sisters are with me for all of my seasons. 


Posted in Blog

Busy in Wonderland

I’m sorry it’s been such a while since my last update! It’s been sooooooo busy in the Wonderland!

PIP Assessment

If you guys follow me on social media, you’ll know that I’ve been working with Epilepsy Action on their PIP Campaign, to help raise awareness. My application was rejected (qu’elle surprise) and although the Government are finally acknowledging that Epilepsy is about more than just seizures, we unfortunately still have a long way to go in the fight. The bigotry makes me so angry; I worked for ten years, to the point of almost killing myself and now I’m asking for a little bit of help while I get back on my feet, I get told by Government officials that I don’t look sick enough – it’s disgusting. I will be appealing, don’t you worry. 
Coil Replacement

I had my IUD replaced, and apart from a few bits of spotting here and there, it’s been plain sailing! The scan was clear (thanks for letting me know Whittington Hospital… NOT) so hopefully this means no more periods 🤷🏾‍♀️ at least humungously painful and heavy ones anyway. The procedure itself was dire, they gave me absolutely no pain relief, complimenting the rhetoric that Black women need none right? I did ask for some beforehand too. The gynaecologist kept on telling me how fucking brave I was and offered me a cup tea afterwards. I politely declined. My legs were still trembling from the trauma 8 hours later. 

Studies

I’m currently just over half way through my second module of my MSc and I hate it 😒

Social Psychology itself is incredible, however our professor is horrendous and I’ve already had to file a complaint about her. She knows absolutely nothing about the module, which was evident from the start. While in A&E a few weeks ago I stalked her on the Internet and found her poorly rated on ratemyprofessor.com

She frequently misunderstands our work because she doesn’t understand the module (God how do these white people get jobs??), and then poorly grades our work. She’s a joke. We have to do a Research Project on a topic that hasn’t been done, so I’ve chosen discrimination against Invisible Disabilities – specifically Epilepsy, and why people implicitly discriminate, yet when it comes to more visible disabilities, society is more likely to show empathy. I’m also arguing that research has never used qualitative research methods (questions, interviews) to able-bodied people as opposed to disabled people, to find out why people discriminate. Everybody in my class gets it, except her. So she gave me a D for the question and concept. Furious. I’m trying to argue it – my partner advised me to take the humble approach, as opposed to the angry, Black woman approach… I’ll let you know where it leads. 

This research is so relevant because society really doesn’t understand invisible disabilities. In fact, a troll commented on one of my PIP YouTube videos and called me a “benefit scrounger”. They also said, and I quote: ” I know loads of people with Epilepsy who have full time jobs. Go out and get a job.” On another of my videos, the same person told me to: “move out of London and find a job”

Would this same person say the exact same things to a paraplegic I wonder? 

I’ve come head-to-head with her before: during our last module, we learnt that Psychology is heavily Westernised which I proved in this module during a forum discussion, by pointing out that research rarely uses Black European or African-American people (I had articles for reference) and she tried to prove me wrong by referring to this one study she’d read, about facial expressions. She didn’t even reference the damn article! 

It hurts to be this clever 😒

Finally… I nearly died last week. I’m deadly allergic to cashew nuts and I accidentally ate a fruit bar that had them in it. I was alone in my flat at the time, and I had to send my partner a message on WhatsApp to call 999 because I was struggling to breathe. 

Death by suffocation, is not how I want to go. 

Seconds feel like hours.

Your life doesn’t flash before you, but I remember thinking about my partner and that I would never get to see him again…

I’ve never felt so scared in my life. 

It was my partner who gave me the frickin’ bar, so I must admit it took awhile to forgive him, and it took awhile to forgive myself. I hadn’t had a reaction like that in 10 years because I’m usually so careful. There was a Black matron who after dealing with the shock of seeing me on the resus ward, then laughed at me once she heard that the cause of the anaphylaxis shock was a fruit bar, because in her eyes I’d caused my own suffering. Not all skin folk are your kin folk, right? Bitch.

And that was my second time in hospital in as many weeks. My first time was because I started having leg pains again and after going to see Placebo @O2Brixton, I reeeeeeeeeeaaaaaallly fucked it up and could barely walk so I went to see my GP. He advised me to go to A&E considering my past history with the Whittington (blood clot), plus my mum having had one in the past. I went to the Royal Free Hospital, which although is an NHS Hospital is by far the best I’ve been to. I was given a blood test and scan within two hours. It turns out that those DVT blood tests regularly give false positives, so the chances of my having had a blood clot in the Summer are extremely low 😒 which is great to hear, but fucking annoying. The Whittington told me all kinds of shit, probably wasn’t true. Turns out it was a musculoskeletal strain from the tonic clonic seizure I had in May, which will probably keep flaring up. 

The best way to help it is not keep it elevated, non-mobile and therefore gain a stone (thanks Whittington 😒 this place is probably the worst hospital in London methinks?) but to stay active, because it’s probably going to re-occurr with any seizure (focal onset or generalised). So I’ve started running again. I’m not setting myself any targets for distance or anything, just getting myself out for a certain amount of time, every few days and taking it gently. See how it goes.

The endorphins are beautiful 😍

It was during this stint in A&E by the way, that I stalked my Professor. Not last week… where I was almost dying. Priorities lol. 

Oh and I FINALLY HAVE AN APPOINTMENT FOR AN ASSESSMENT TO SEE A PERSONALITY THERAPIST!!!!!! NEXT WEEK!!!!

Finally, finally I think those are all of my updates!

 I’m going to be uploading a YouTube video tomorrow, in the midst of catching up on my MSc reading (so behind!). Please subscribe to the channel!!!!!

Love you all!!!