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August 8, 2003

Calvin, Pathfinder Team for Event

As a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Alvin Poussaint has the professional credentials to speak about mental health. And as an African American he has a special interest in the mental health of African Americans. But as the brother of a heroin addict and paranoid schizophrenic, he has a personal connection to the plight of those who struggle daily with things others take for granted. And that personal connection makes his talks on the topic of mental health memorable.

On September 18, Pathfinder Resources and Calvin College will welcome Poussaint, who, in addition to his many other duties, writes a column in "Ebony" magazine and used to be a consultant to the Cosby Show. Poussaint will speak about substance abuse and mental health in a 7 p.m. address in the Calvin Chapel that is free and open to all.

In 2000 Poussaint wrote “Lay My Burden Down: Unraveling Suicide and the Mental Health Crisis Among African-Americans.” Co-authored with Boston journalist Amy Alexander, the book tells the story of Poussaint’s older brother Kenny, who struggled with heroin addiction and paranoid schizophrenia until age 42, when he died as a result of meningitis contracted through use of a dirty needle.

In part, Poussaint argues that people engage in risky behaviors such as drug use to cover suicidal feelings that are exacerbated by discrimination and low self-esteem.

Pathfinder Resources is a nonprofit organization that provides outpatient and residential treatment services to persons throughout West Michigan.

"The purpose of the event at Calvin," says director Bill Paxton, "is to recognize National Recovery Month, to educate the community about the problem of substance abuse in our community and to reduce the stigma society places on the people we serve."

Paxton says one out of four Americans experiences family problems related to alcohol abuse. Eighty percent of the people in prison are there because of an alcohol or drug related problem. And alcohol and other drug abuse cost society an estimated $278 billion annually.

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Contact Phil de Haan
616-526-6475 (v)
616-526-7069 (f)