Innovative Strategies for
Addressing the Mental Health
Consequences of Gentrification
Vanessa Jackson, LCSW
Lionel Scott, Ph.D.
Georgia State University
Community Forum 2008
A stick on its own is easily broken but if you
put sticks in a bundle that bundle becomes
very strong, so strong that you cannot break
A spirit on its own can be easily broken. But
bundled together we will not break. That is
our power and our strength.
Four Healing Questions
1) What happened to you ( your people)?
2) How does what happened to you (or your
people) affect you now?
3) How, in spite of what happened, have you(your
people)been able to triumph?
4) What do you (your people)need to heal?
Many thanks to Pemina Yelllow Bird for the three original questions
and to Makungu Akinyela for the addition of question three.
What is root shock?
Root shock is the traumatic stress reaction
to the destruction of all or part of one’s
emotional ecosystem. This metaphor is
taken from botany. Plants suffer from root
shock when they are relocated from one
place to another. The loss of the familiar
soil–with its particular texture and balance
of nutrients–and the inevitable damage to
the root system cause the plant injury or
M ental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity
A Supplem to M
ent ental Health: A Report of the Surgeon
Am ajor finding of the supplem is that racial and ethnic
m inorities bear a greater burden from unm health needs and
thus suffer a greater loss to their overall health and productivity.
Racism and discrim ination adversely affect health and they
place m inorities at ris k for mental disorders such as depression
and anxiety. W hether racism and discrim ination can by
them selves cause these disorders is less clear, yet deserves
Based on your experiences and/or observations, how
developm induced displacem and econom
ent ent ic
under-developm of targeted (read: Black)
com unities negatively im
m pacted the mental health of
residents (displaced and remaining)?
“This is a catastrophe! W know that you
are in the m iddle of a catastrophe? This is like
Katrina w ithout the water.”
M indy Thom pson Fullilove
Discussion w NPU-V Residents follow a w
ith ing indshield
tour of the com unity
Recurrent Them in Com unity W Survivors of Developm
es m ith ent
Induced Displacem ent
•Challenge Sustaining Hope
“ e have lost our w
Com ent from a Photo Voice participant as she
reflected on the mass relocation/dislocation of elders in the
com unity due to gentrification
While this concept of poverty as traum requires further study, it is a useful
m etaphor to utilize in dialogues w low age earning individuals because
it appropriately captures the life-threatening and sham inducing
experiences that result from inadequate incom and resources.
When fiscal traum is explored in clinical settings, individuals often report
feelings of anxiety and panic, depression, despair, hopelessness, fear,
anger, rage, a sense of w orthlessness and lowself-esteem These feeling
can often persist after econom stabilization has been achieved. It is
useful for clinicians to explore w im
hat pact econom lack has on an
individual’ sense of self, their relationships w fam and friends, their
s ith ily
view about econom and career possibilities and their relationship w
s ic ith
their com unity.
Clinical conversations should also include a discussion of external factors
(social, econom political, geographical) that im
ic, pact the individual’s
access to necessary resources.
How in spite of w happened, have w
, hat e
been able to triumph?
Lo ve Is Our Blo o dline
Love is profoundly political. Our deepest revolution w ill
com we hen w understand this truth. Only love can give
us the strength to go forw in the m
ard idst of heartbreak
and m isery. Only love can give us the pow to er
reconcile, to redeem the pow to reneww
, er eary spirits
and save lost souls. The transform ative pow of love is
the foundation of all m eaningful social change. W ithout
love our lives are without m eaning. Love is the heart of
the m atter. W hen all else has fallen aw love sustains.
bell hooks, Salvation: Black People and Love
The Center for Black W en’ W
om s ellness
founded by the Black W en’ Health Project in
Collaboration w Com unity m bers in 1988.
ith m em
Operating as an independent organization since 1996
NPU-V Me ntal He alth Co llabo rative
The M ental Health Collaborative w form in 2006 to
address the com plex m ental health consequences of fam ily
and com unity dislocation due to gentrification on
Neighborhood Planning Unit V w hich includes Adair Park,
Capitol Hom M es, echanicsville, Peoplestow Pittsburgh and
Sum erhill neighborhoods in Atlanta, Georgia. W are
com itted to w
m orking collaboratively to ensure that the
individuals and fam ilies receive culturally appropriate m ental
health resources to assist them in dealing w forced
relocation and the loss of m ultigenerational relationships due
The M ental Health Collaborative is represented by the Adinkra
sym Eban w
bol hich means love, safety, and security. This
sym reflects the com itm of collaborative partners to
bol m ent
create safe, loving and secure com unities for newand
The Dirty Truth
The Dirty Truth Cam paign represents a group of residents of
Neighborhood Planning Unit-V (neighborhoods in Atlanta near Turner
Field) and partner organizations w w an end to the trash,
construction debris and vacant properties that are plaguing the
In 2006, approxim ately 20 residents of NPU-V used a process called
Photovoice (see w w w .photovoice.com to take pictures, tell stories, and
reach policym akers about the issues that concern them the m ost. The
them that kept resurfacing w the im
e as pact of the built environm on
residents' quality of life. Our technical assistance request to The
Neighborhood Data Advisory Group revealed that there are 1296
vacant or unoccupied properties in NPU-V, representing 42% of all
Relational View of Healing
o Emphasizes the importance of community to individual
well-being . Individual healing was not possible
without consideration of extended social relationships.
oBlack healers grounded their work in notions of
spiritual power, human relationships and community
resourcefulness, thus addressing a wider range of
healing needs than slaveholders considered legitimate.
Healing Principles for African Americans
• Privileges the experiences/stories of the
•Based on an understanding of the historical,
economic, social, political context of the person.
•Honors the spiritual traditions of the person.
•Fosters connections with family and the wider
•Creates space for the expression of grief and
anger that has been historically denied to African
•Creates space for recovery and celebration of
resilience and creativity stories.
•Expands the concept of healing space beyond
It is important for us to ground our political
m ovem ents in an understanding of history
because the forces of oppression that have
so effectively silenced and separated us
benefit from our ignorance regarding past
abuses and successes.
In Our Ow Voice: African-Am
n erican Stories
of Oppression, Survival and Recovery in M ental Health
Self Help Groups
Com unity Listening Circles
•Conflict Resolution skills to address the
m istrust that can tear organizations apart
and block the exchange of inform ation.
Proposed Projects for 2008
•Movie Night com unity gathering
•Ropheka Com unity Café (literacy and discussion group
Black Top Circus Improv Worshop
Com unity M
m ental Health clinic at Dunbar Center in collaboration
w Georgia State University
CBW Healthy Body/Healthy Spirit Education/Support Group (body
image and emotional eating)
Continue Dirty Truth Campaign
How can the GSU community best
support the NPU-V community?
Consider individual and institutional
interventions and collaborations.
What are some interdisciplinary projects
that might be beneficial to the NPU-V
Guardians of Our Own Health
“The experience left me with many convictions, none
stronger than believing that significant change in relation
to issues of health is most likely to come about when
those most affected are empowered to take action. I also
learned the flipside of this equation- that unless those
affected by illness take leadership, especially those in
poor neighborhoods, then they will never receive the
resources they deserve. There is no choice but to take
leadership and action.
Latino Health Access