The Town Shrink
Mindy Thompson Fullilove, MD, grew up in Orange, NJ in an activist family. Her father was a prominent civil rights activist and her mother was committed to anti-racism in all aspects of her life and work. Growing up, Mindy was torn and upset by the tension between the belief in her parents’s work and the costs of taking on the system. Yet the kinds of extravagant emotions she experienced were out-of-step with the buttoned-down world in which she lived. It was a great relief to discover psychiatry, and to be given tools to make sense of that rich and painful body of lived experience. Her training in family therapy gave her a sound understanding of social systems and a deep interest in interventions at levels of scale that could help many people. Her studies of urban epidemics -- what she called the “mad plagues of the 90s” -- led her to social psychiatry, the study of the ways in which social systems influence people’s mental health. Her observations of the destructive effects of mad plagues on inner-city neighborhoods led to the study of cities under the tutelage of the renowned French urbanist, Michel Cantal-Dupart.
Dr. Fullilove has brought these three perspectives together to create a unique body of work. Her contributions to the scientific community include: early identification of the intersection of the crack and AIDS epidemics; documentation of the high levels of trauma among women in recovery from crack addiction and proposals to address that form of co-morbidity; the description of “root shock” in the aftermath of mass upheaval; the description of “serial forced displacement", and the identification of nine elements of urban restoration.
Her contributions to social interventions include: the adaptation of Uri Treisman’s PDP model to the medical school setting; the proposal to adapt of the Church of Latter Day Saints’s Family Home Evening program for Harlem and other inner-city families; the proposal of a trail to link Manhattan’s cliffside parks, the CLIMB project; the concept that Orange, NJ, was a university, an idea that led to the establishment the University of Orange; and the 2016 observation that the U.S. ought to observe the 2019 anniversary of the first landing of Africans at Jamestown.
Her work is the subject of feature articles, including the 2015 New York Times "The Town Shrink," and she herself has published more than a hundred scientific papers and eight books. She has been given numerous awards for her work, including two honorary degrees, and was elected to honorary membership in the American Institute of Architects in 2016 and Life Fellowship in the American Psychiatric Association in 2018.
Mindy is a writer and social psychiatrist who studies cities. She works on displacement, urban mental health, and collective consciousness.