By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
Saying fetal alcohol is the biggest problem since slavery, Dr. Carl C. Bell, a nationally- recognized Black psychiatrist, blamed the escalation of violence on mothers who drink while pregnant. He said it causes uncontrollable emotional and behavioral problems that too often lead to violence.
Bell, who as of July 25, will be an emeritus clinical professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is currently a staff psychiatrist at Jackson Park Hospital, voiced concern about the growing violence in the Black community.
When asked if the ongoing violence is a result of angry young Black men, Bell responded, “It is very complex. It is not a simple answer.” However, in studying this problem for the past 35 years, Bell pointed to an “organic brain damage component, specifically—fetal alcohol exposure.”
Explaining this happens when the mother does not know she is pregnant for six to eight-weeks and is engaging in social drinking. Bell said liquor stores are plentiful in the Black community and that when mothers drink while pregnant, the baby ends up with “very subtle brain damage.”
“These children have extraordinarily poor regulation. These are the people who get mad at their spouses and kill them because they do not have any emotional control,” he explained.
Bell went on to say, “These are the people who yell at the police because they do not have any emotional control. These are the people who wind up in special education, in juvenile detention, in foster care…. It’s been right in front of my face, but I didn’t know what it was…couldn’t name it,” Bell said referring to the results of fetal alcohol exposure.
He said all he saw were “angry little Black boys and Black girls…angry…quick to become violent…quick to explode…quick to go off on somebody from 0 to 60….”
Bell said many times they end up in his psychiatric ward after having been misdiagnosed as bipolar “which they are not. That is what their family says.”
Many times family members believe their relative is experiencing mood swings, but what Bell later found out was that it was a sign of a lack of being able to regulate their emotions. “Mood disorders last a week or two.”
When asked if this violence is a result of having a medical problem how can they be helped, Bell said for years both psychiatrists and sociologists believed this abnormal behavior was a social problem which he explained why their treatment of the youth failed. Their problem is “biological.”
Bell said the best way for leaders to get a handle on the violence is to “try to convince women at their child-bearing age that they should not drink at all….”
He said over-the-counter Choline (vitamin) appears to help children with violent tendencies. However, it takes a while to become effective.
“It allows the brain to develop properly. On very rare occasions where there is a biological cause for a problem. Sometimes when people with diabetes get a little psychotic it is because of their blood sugar, not because they are schizophrenic. It’s because their blood sugar is all messed up. It’s easy to fix someone’s blood sugar.”
Bell said violence could be prevented by treating children who have the problem, who are in foster care, special education, juvenile detention, and mental health. He suggested preventive strategies, which includes having a good prenatal environment that does not have any alcohol and good nutritional habits.
Bell will be attending the 45th Annual Rainbow PUSH Coalition Convention being held from June 25-29, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Hotel, 2233 S. King Drive. Dr. Bell will be speaking at the convention. Visit the Rainbow PUSH website at www.rainbowpush.org for information about the convention. To view the convention program go to www.rainbowpush.org/index.php/pages/2245/.