Yale Daily News

Actress, author and model Dominique Jackson and Whiting Award-winning writer Esmé Weijun Wang will speak to the Yale community in both virtual and in-person events at the Women’s Mental Health Conference on April 28 and 29. 

WMHC is the first-ever academic and trainee-led conference focusing on the field of women’s mental health. The event aims to bring clinicians, researchers and advocates together to share knowledge with health trainees, the greater New Haven community and, in recent years, a global audience.

The conference will feature individuals from diverse backgrounds — both within and outside of academic and medical spaces — to highlight and discuss the mental health experiences of women from different communities. 

“This year, we have a panel focused on the impact of political and humanitarian crises on the mental health of women impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Israel’s occupation of Palestine and the US-Mexico border crisis,” Gul Saeed, a postdoctoral candidate at the School of Public Health, wrote to the News. “It is our goal that this conference will shed light on the critical need to prioritize women’s mental health and tailor mental health care to the needs of different communities.”

Since the conference’s inception in 2019, WMHC has extended beyond the Yale and New Haven community, according to Maria Iuliano, assistant chair of the conference. In addition to all states in the United States, WMHC has reached 52 countries through its virtual programming. 

 “It’s been amazing to connect with mental health advocates, researchers, and trainees across the globe, and it is empowering and exciting to hear from our lineup of speakers who are able to highlight topics that are often understudied, overlooked, or minimized in the field,” Iuliano said.

This year’s keynote lecture, “Finding Gender Joy: A Conversation with Dominique Jackson,” will feature Jackson sharing her story as a transgender immigrant and discussing her own mental health experiences. Christy Olezeski, director and co-founder of the Yale Pediatric Gender Program, has also assisted in organizing a special event for YPGP patients to meet with Jackson outside of the lecture.

Additionally, organizers have invited Wang, esteemed essayist and author, to discuss her New York Times bestseller “The Collected Schizophrenias,” in which she explores her schizophrenia diagnosis, her experience with chronic illness, the wide-reaching effects of ableism and the effect of art and spirituality on the psyche. Wang has previously detailed her own mental health struggles while a student at Yale, noting how colleges and universities may be falling short in their approach to handling student mental health. 

“We felt it was especially important for us to have Esme Wang return to Yale for the first time since her experience here to reflect on the recent experiences of students in crisis here at Yale and to highlight the massive mental health policy changes implemented by Yale’s student health earlier this year,” said Erin Davidowicz, chair of WMHC and third-year resident in the Yale School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry.

Davidowicz added that the WMHC at Yale has always prioritized important conversations about LGBTQ+ mental health, especially transgender health care. By recognizing the ways in which women’s mental health and LGBTQ+ health intersect, she hopes that attendees will be able to organize all kinds of gender-responsive care, both for women and for minoritized gender identities.

“The WMHC aims to facilitate discussion surrounding LGBTQ+ and transgender mental health, and we find this discussion to be very timely, given today’s social and political climate,” said Iuliano.

According to Angela Nunez, ProNET Research Manager at the School of Medicine, the conference looks to highlight every type of journey in the mental health community, covering issues including mental health history in the context of family trauma and living with diagnoses and chronic illnesses. Other topics to be discussed by speakers and presenters include creativity, the LGBTQ+ community and immigration.

The 2023 conference will be free and completely virtual on Friday, April 28, with in-person events taking place at the University on Saturday, April 29.

Omar Ali covers science, technology and academics for the News. Originally from Lahore, Pakistan, he is a sophomore in Berkeley College majoring in Economics with Mathematics and Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology.