By Megan Finnegan
Mahogany Monette has won the Cultivating Healing, Advocacy, Nonviolence, Growth, and Equity (CHANGE) Grant from the American Psychological Association. The award supports early career psychologists in projects aimed at identifying and uprooting systemic racism, discrimination, and violence. Mahogany's research proposal for the grant focuses on understanding the links between racial trauma and psychosis.
This work will fill a major hole in current knowledge about how racism negatively impacts mental well-being. Mahogany, a rising second-year PhD student in clinical-community psychology, points out the near complete lack of prior research on the role of racial trauma on schizotypy (traits associated with mental health difficulties on the same spectrum as schizophrenia) and psychosis. She and her research team were only able to find three prior studies on the topic, underlining the dearth of understanding about how this source of trauma impacts symptoms. Her work, funded by the CHANGE grant, will seek to fill in some of these missing pieces and connect previous unexplored aspects of racial discrimination and harassment with the known dimensions of schizotypy.
When asked what inspired her latest work, Mahogany responded "As an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I had the opportunity to complete an internship at a community mental health center for people with severe mental illness. A lot of the members there were Black and/or low-income and I was able to see firsthand how environmental factors such as systemic racism were associated with poorer mental health. This is especially interesting given that research suggests Black Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with psychosis and exhibit distinct symptom profiles of psychosis when compared to other racial and ethnic groups. There are a few theories for why this occurs: biased clinicians, biased assessment materials, and the presence of more environmental stressors for Black Americans, leading to a greater likelihood of developing psychosis. I am interested in how one of these environmental stressors, racial trauma, may increase risk for schizotypy and psychosis among Black Americans."
Her work could inform interventions for psychosis in Black Americans. It has the potential to rewrite the book on appropriate assessment of Black individuals by providing deeper context for what a normal reaction to ongoing discrimination and harassment looks like within and apart from maladaptive thoughts and behaviors related to psychosis. This could prevent the over-diagnosis of Black Americans, lead to more accurate mental health assessments, and guide more appropriate treatment referrals for individuals in need.
Congratulations to Mahogany Monette for winning the CHANGE grant!