CARL C. BELL is a clinical professor of psychiatry and public health, director of the Institute for Juvenile Research (IJR), University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). IJR is century old, multi-million dollar academic institute providing child and family research, training, and service, employing 257 academic faculty and support staff. He is the former president and C.E.O. of the Community Mental Health Council (CMHC) and Foundation, Inc. in Chicago. During 40 years, he's published more than 500 articles, chapters, and books on mental health and authored The Sanity of Survival. He and Ranna Parekh, MD, recently authored Overcome Prejudice at Work. He has been interviewed by Ebony; Jet; Essence; Emerge; New York Times; Chicago Tribune Magazine; People Magazine; Chicago Reporter; "Nightline"; ABC News; NPR; "CBS Sunday Morning"; The News Hour with Jim Lehrer; the Tom Joyner Morning Show; Chicago Tonight; and the "Today" show. A 1967 graduate of UIC, he earned his MD from Meharry College in Nashville, Tennessee in 1971. He completed his psychiatric residency in 1974 at the Illinois State Psychiatric Institute/Institute for Juvenile Research in Chicago.
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What is your current position and area of research?
Currently, I am the Director of the Institute for Juvenile Research (Birthplace of Child Psychiatry), Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago. I have several areas of research - Racism, Isolated Sleep Paralysis, Misdiagnosis of African-Americans, HIV prevention, Violence Prevention, Resiliency, Head Injury, Trauma, and Internet-Based Depression Prevention. What can I say? I am very curious and I go where my nose leads me.
What led you to this field/area of research?
Racism - When I was a psychiatric resident I was curious about people's motivation for racism and I wondered if there were any psychiatric motivations for such behavior.
Isolated Sleep Paralysis - When I was doing States of Consciousness research I came upon the phenomena of Isolated Sleep Paralysis and did several studies on it. This later developed into several other researchers being funded to do more well done research.
Head Injury - Another off shoot from my States of Consciousness research, I learned that African-American people had very high levels of head injury. Of course, this finding was ignored for 20+ years until the football players who had head injuries began to act loopy.
Misdiagnosis of African-Americans - As a practicing psychiatrist, I was struck with the number of African-Americans who had bipolar disorder, but who were diagnosed as being schizophrenic, so I did some formal studies on the problem.
Trauma and children exposed to violence - As a practicing psychiatrist, I saw a lot of children who had been exposed to violence and so I did a formal study of the problem as I thought it may be partly responsible for the high Black on Black homicide rates. Being a public health sort of guy, I wanted to have a wide ranging impact on population health.
Violence prevention - My work on trauma and children exposed to violence pulled me into a large, well-done study on violence prevention (Aban Aya). It worked. From there we actually took the lessons we had learned and applied them in Chicago Public Schools with the result being a 50% decrease in school violence.
HIV Prevention - Since we had solved the violence problem and HIV loomed high on the horizon, I then moved to HIV prevention. Like I said, being a public health sort of guy, I go where the action is. After several HIV prevention studies, I finally wound up in Durban, South Africa doing HIV prevention there. It worked.
Resiliency - From my explorations into children exposed to violence and trauma, I learned that not all people who were exposed to trauma wound up traumatized, so I shifted to trying to understand how risk factors were not automatically predictive of bad outcomes because of protective factors in people's lives.
Internet-Based Depression Prevention - My explorations into resiliency drew an Internet-based depression prevention pediatric researcher to me and we started working together to figure out how to do Internet-based depression prevention with the understanding that it would be best to focus on resilience rather than deficits.
Where do you see your field progressing over the next 10 years?
I would expect that the prevention and resiliency areas to be much more a part of American society. I expect Schizophrenia to be as old fashioned as polio because we will have figured out how to prevent it. I would also expect that conduct disorder and antisocial behavior would have also been minimized, and we will be a much more enlightened society - of course I am extraordinarily hopeful and optimistic.
What, in your opinion, has been the greatest achievement in the fields of criminology and social sciences?
Social sciences and criminology keep learning the same lessons over and over again. Studying history has taught me that there is very little that is new under the sun. Juvenile delinquency prevention was alive and well a 100 years ago when Jane Addams and her ladies were developing the first Juvenile Court in the United States and had started the Institute for Juvenile Research (Birthplace of Child Psychiatry). If you read any ancient literature, the ancients were well versed in psychosocial interventions that were designed to help people comport their behavior in a socially acceptable manner. Unfortunately, we have forgotten those lessons, and have to learn them all over again. There has been an explosion in biotechnical knowledge and so we no longer see various forms of mental retardation or other neuropsychiatric disorders, so hopefully these discoveries will continue and everyone will have the change to live a better life.