Dr. Jaseon Outlaw speaks on mental health in the Black community during the pandemic

Dr.-Jaseon-Outlaw, Dr. Jaseon Outlaw speaks on mental health in the Black community during the pandemic, Culture Currents Local News & Views
Jaseon Outlaw, Ph.D., is clinical director and psychologist for Journey of Life Psychological, Inc., and former chair of the Alameda County Mental Health Board.

by People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey, SF Bay View Oakland Bureau

Mental health in the Black community is a very important issue that has recently been given a little bit of a spotlight, but more is needed. Dr. Jaseon Outlaw is a Black mental health professional who specializes in helping people from our community. 

With suicide, alcoholism, addictions, domestic violence and more at all time highs, we have to do something before the stress of being Black in this country creates a situation where we self destruct. Dr. Jaseon Outlaw is giving us an update on the state of the Black community, as well as tips we can use to better our mental health. Check him out.  

JR Valrey: How has the pandemic, which has been going on for over two years, affected your patients from the Black community? What kinds of issues are they dealing with because of this situation?

Dr. Jaseon Outlaw: Patients in general are ready to go back to what we once knew as “normal life.”  What we once took for granted (e.g. existing in the world in the absence of restrictions) we now know is not guaranteed.  

Clients from the Black community are actually a bit more resilient than the larger population, as we are, unfortunately, accustomed to being restricted, left out, beaten up, forgotten etc.  That doesn’t mean that we aren’t also ready for pandemic liberation, it just means that we have had to endure the concept of being “restricted” in every major city in the United States since this country was founded.  However, we are affected as human beings by further restrictions, but it has an additive effect for us.

JR Valrey: How have family relations been affected by this very uncertain situation?

Dr. Jaseon Outlaw: Families have had a really difficult time. The “breaks” from the difficulties of families once came in the form of folks going to work for eight hours a day, providing the family unit a “break” from the natural stressors families create. Folks have had to endure the transition of the family in that we are now in the same space for days or weeks at a time. 

Although it looks different from family to family, the common factor is that it is a shift for many families and all transitions come with a bit of difficulty. Some argue more, some run from the potential argument(s), and some are on the verge of divorce. Just know you are not alone in the struggle no matter which category you fall in.

JR Valrey: How have school age children been affected by distance learning?

Dr. Jaseon Outlaw: School-aged children, while much more adept at using technology for education as well as socializing, have also had transitions. While many schools are doing in-person instruction at the time, the threat of returning to quarantine and having to return to 100 percent online instruction is right around the corner.   

Middle-school and high-school children have missed dances, proms, winter balls, grad night etc.  While some of the aforementioned activities have happened, they have all maintained some version of restrictions thus reducing the natural experience.  This is unprecedented in most of our lives and remains difficult for our young people.  I encourage understanding in this respect.

JR Valrey: Why do you believe that the suicide rate among Black males has been on the rise since the beginning of the pandemic?

The suicide rate tends to increase when there is a lack of hope.

Dr. Jaseon Outlaw: Unfortunately, the suicide rate among Black males has been high for some time. The media doesn’t highlight our experiences in comparison to our European counterparts; therefore, it has gone unnoticed.  

The suicide rate tends to increase when there is a lack of hope. War creates lack of hope (this can be “war” in a community by the way). Sub-par educational systems and/or opportunities creates lack of hope. Joblessness creates lack of hope. Health care inadequacies create lack of hope. As you see, the systemic problems in the Black community increase the suicide rate within our community; add personal stressors on top of that and no surprise our rate remains high.

JR Valrey: What are a few techniques that we in the Black community can use to take care of our mental health?

Dr. Jaseon Outlaw: There are a lot of things we can do to maintain our mental health, but I’d like to highlight a few:  

1.  Self-care.  Most people think of taking a vacation or going to the gym when they hear the phrase self-care.  However, self-care covers much more than this and differs from person to person. In addition to engaging in the things that make you happy, you also need to do things that reduce your general stress level. Black folks are now getting into non-traditional forms of therapy more these days, which can be helpful. Yoga, meditation, guided imagery, breathing techniques are all ways to center or ground oneself, but there are many more ways as well.  

2. Healing circles or African-centered psychotherapy groups. Too often we are a part of a group in which our unique life stressors are ignored or seen as less important than the stressors of our European counterparts. In our healing circles or psychotherapy groups, issues unique to us are at the forefront. 

3.  Find yourself a good therapist you can trust.  This one is a bit obvious, but we all need this at some point in our lives.

JR Valrey: What are some of the most common issues you encounter?

Dr. Jaseon Outlaw: Easy question.  Depression, anxiety, relationship concerns, work-related stress and trauma.  Those are the common presenting concerns in our community. 

JR Valrey: What kinds of services do you offer?

Dr. Jaseon Outlaw: We offer individual therapy, group therapy, couples therapy, psychological testing and consultations. Right now we are still working from home in a telehealth capacity, but at some point we will return to the office.  We are a team of nine therapists at the time.

JR Valrey: How could people contact you?

Dr. Jaseon Outlaw: First I encourage people to follow me on Instagram @theoaklandpsychologist.  I post positive affirmations as well as community events, current events and issues unique to Black Mental Health.  And our website is http://journeypsy.com. You can find information about our clinic and it also has each therapist’s profile which lists their specialities and biography. I even have some other media work posted on my profile. Check it out.  Unfortunately, mental health workers are overworked at this point and most of us are full, but we do maintain a waiting list.

JR, thanks again for having me. I hope this helps your readers in improving their mental health.

JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of Black New World Media, heads the SF Bay View’s Oakland Bureau. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com or on Facebook. Visit www.BlackNewWorldMedia.com to read more.