by Dr. Michael D’Andrea…
How and why is neuroscience is relevant to multicultural and social justice counseling?
Those living in poverty are over 3 times as likely to be uninsured. Lack of affordable health insurance, including mental health and substance abuse coverage, impedes health and well-being. Men and women have higher mortality rates and present higher incidence of osteoarthritis, hypertension, cervical cancer, coronary heart disease, AIDS/HIV infection, and other chronic health conditions. As a consequence those who are poor are sicker and more likely to have disabilities than their nonpoor counterparts, limiting their employment options, straining their financial resources, and increasing their stress levels.
The impact of poverty on young children is also significant and long lasting. Children who are poor are at greater risk than higher income children for a range of problems, including poor academic achievement, poor socioemotional functioning, developmental delays, behavioral problems, asthma, poor nutrition, low birth weight, and pneumonia.
Finally, low-income groups are the targets of discrimination based on their socioeconomic status as well as other social indicators such as gender.
Those from middle and upper socioeconomic levels display attitudes and stereotypes that attribute poverty to personal failings rather than to socioeconomic structures and systems; and tend to ignore the strengths and competencies of those from low socioeconomic levels. Public policy and anti-poverty programs also reflect these stereotypes. Counselors, psychologists, and other professionals also present such biases.
In addition, low-income individuals are 2 to 5 times more likely to suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder than those of the highest socioeconomic levels, and poverty poses a significant obstacle to getting help for these mental health problems. Poverty is detrimental to the physical, psychological, and social health of individuals.
What impact does stress have on the brain?
Stressful experiences disengage the frontal lobes, which, over time can lead to:
Impulsivity Short-sightedness Aggressive behavior Increased anxiety Depression Alcohol and drug abuse Learning disorders Stress-related diseases.
The subcortical arousal system bypasses the frontal lobe’s executive functioning to prompt our stress response: Increased heart rate, Increased respiratory rate, Strengthened muscle tone.
Stressful experiences lead to dysfunctions of the prefrontal cortex, including critical areas regulating judgment, planning, decision-making, moral reasoning, and sense of self. Out of this comes a wide variety of so-called disorders, which are really a result of an often insane, oppressive environment.
Discrimination shows in both the mind and body.
We understand that stress is necessary for learning. We need mental and physical challenges to grow. So do not aim for a totally neutral, peaceful environment, except as a rest period. During stress, glucocorticoids release which provide short-term pleasure; but, long-term continued stress results in damage to the brain and loss of brain plasticity.
During stressful times, excessive cortisol is released in to the brain that impact our attention—and, if a sufficient amount is released in trauma or extended stress, long-term toxicity results, with the loss of neural connections such as post-traumatic stress.