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By Katie Huber

Sophomore Anthropology & Biology Double Major

This week, Active Minds at Carolina invited a panel of three professionals to speak about their experiences addressing mental health issues in diverse populations.

Ciera Scott is a Ph.D. Candidate in Counseling Psychology and works as a Pre-Doctoral Psychology Intern at UNC CAPS. She specifically discussed mental health stigma in the African American community. The misconceptions that “Black people don’t get depressed,” that depression will simply “go away” through prayer or on its own without a doctor, and that seeking therapy “is what White people do” are all stigmas that make it more difficult for African American populations to access appropriate therapy. After horrors like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, Ms. Scott explained how African Americans may be hesitant to seek therapy from a therapist or doctor who may not understand their experiences as a person of color.

Mae Lynn Reyes-Rodriguez, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist at the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders. Her current research is focused on creating culturally relevant eating disorder treatment for Latinos in the United States. She addressed the misconception in the U.S. that eating disorders affect one demographic only and advocated for awareness that eating disorders affect people of all races, ages, and genders. The existing stigma makes it more difficult for Latinos affected by eating disorders to know how and where to seek help. Dr. Reyes-Rodriguez emphasized the need for culturally sensitive treatment of eating disorders in the form of bilingual and community-integrated services.

Vanessa Volpe is a Ph.D. Candidate in Developmental Quantitative Psychology. Her talk was entitled Doing Better: Culturally Centered Practices and Programs that Support Mental Health Thriving of Adolescents/College Students of Color. Ms. Volpe presented research that showed that Caucasian students more often report positive feelings at the start of college than students of other races. She advocated for making culturally relevant therapy more accessible to all students through the use of social media and informal support networks. These kinds of interventions, she argued, would increase feelings of social belonging in all groups.

All three speakers were supporters of increasing access to culturally sensitive care to address mental health stigma in all populations.

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