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Optimism is a Depression Fighter

By on May 13, 2011

In spite of high rates of mortality, incarceration, and poverty black men generally tend to look at their glasses half full. Several studies say African American men tend to be an optimistic bunch. 

Optimism is the belief that the future will be better than the past.  Optimism builds confidence about the future and fuels hopefulness.  These types of thoughts tend to ward of helplessness, which is a common way of thinking for people who are depressed and at risk for other psychological challenges.  And given the state of our economy and levels of unemployment being optimistic can literally be a mental health benefit.

Several factors may contribute to African American men being optimistic, one of which is what many are calling the “Obama Effect.”  After President Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States of America, many African Americans became more hopeful about race relations and other opportunities in the United States.  This is particularly true for African American men who now have a national role model in a position of power unlike any other in American history. 

However, prior to the “Obama Effect” many African Americans were considered to be optimistic.  This is probably due in part to the long tradition and history that faith has played in the culture of African Americans.  Regardless of religious beliefs, African Americans have a long history of relying on their faith to get them through difficult times.  If one has faith that things will get better or that the future holds brighter days they tend to be optimistic.  Faith and optimism go hand in hand and psychologists consider faith to be a synonym for optimism.  Both are seen as protective factors that help ward off depression and other psychological disorders.  So to paraphrase, Rev. Jesse Jackson, “keep hope alive” and always look for brighter and better days on the horizon.

Don Elligan, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in Chicago. He is also a tenured professor, author, and public speaker. Dr. Elligan is a regularly contributes to healthyblackmen.org.

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