In a panel covering the intersectionality of race and mental health, representatives from Yale’s cultural centers shared their personal stories with over 80 students at Linsly-Chittenden Hall on Wednesday night.
Mind Matters, a student organization that advocates for awareness about mental health concerns in the Yale community, hosted this panel in order to open up the conversation surrounding mental health resources for immigrant and minority students at Yale. After this year’s event, which was the second panel in its series, the group also organized intimate discussions for students of color to voice their concerns in a supportive space, according to Mind Matters co-president Emma Goodman ’19.
Representatives from La Casa Cultural, the Afro-American Cultural Center and the Asian American Cultural Center took part in the event.
“In immigrant families, there are experiences of generational trauma like poverty and displacement, even to generations that haven’t exactly experienced those things,” said Juan Valencia ’19, panelist and peer liaison for La Casa. “Stigmatization around mental health comes from those experiences of poverty, since you can’t access a certain quality of education and healthcare.”
Valencia said that he did not recognize that his feelings of anxiousness and sadness were signs of mental illness until he was exposed to University resources that address mental illness. The other three panelists echoed this sentiment. Peer liaison for the AACC and panelist Neha Bhatt ’20 also said she did not consciously think of her mental health before she arrived at Yale.
But the panelists also pointed out aspects of the Yale community that continue to exacerbate mental health issues.
“As a community, we could be a lot more respectful of each other’s time and energy,” said peer liaison for the Af-Am House and panelist Morgan Baker ’21. “Tokenism is alive and well, and even less exploitative forms like asking friends to do uncompensated labor on things you are getting credit for — that they are not — is troubling in a lot of ways.”
Baker said that at Yale, the prevalent work culture is, “If you are not busy, you are not doing your best.” She added that the Yale community could collectively benefit by doing less and asking each other to do less.
Panelist Sarah Sotomayor ’21 said that academia has “lost a lot of its compassion,” suggesting that during classroom discussions, students should approach each other with a greater understanding of diverging experiences.
When interviewed by the News, the panelists agreed that several barriers exist for students of color who try to access mental health resources at Yale.
Sotomayor said that if students of color want to be paired with a psychiatrist or therapist of color at Yale Mental Health and Counseling, the wait to receive treatment can be elongated since most of the current staff is white.
Baker echoed this sentiment, noting that the wait times for all students are sometimes over two weeks — even when Yalies don’t specifically request a healthcare provider of color.
“Student affairs administration is working on it, but it’s a matter of priorities,” Baker said. “They are passionate about making sure students are okay, but that passion is not backed by the resources Yale has.”
The student affairs administration is currently in the process of creating initiatives to start a conversation about mindfulness at Yale.
Sotomayor, who is a Peer Wellness Champion — a representative of an “initiative organized for students to help their classmates think about individual and collective wellness,” according to its website — said that she and other Champions are working on creating a wellness workshop for first years during Camp Yale.
The workshop will likely include information about how to spot signs that students are overworked or too stressed and about how to help students from a variety of backgrounds identify signs of and treatments for mental illness, according to Sotomayor.
Walden Peer Counseling can be reached at (203) 432-TALK.
Jever Mariwala | firstname.lastname@example.org .