April 25, 2017

Dr. Richardson Speaks on Mental Health and Diversity

PHOTO COURTESY VALENRICH.COM

PHOTO COURTESY VALENRICH.COM

By Patrick Healey ’17

News Staff

Here at Providence College, topics and concerns surrounding diversity have become very pressing and are on the minds of many of the students and faculty. Discussions involving mental health are also becoming more and more prevalent nationally and on college campuses in particular.  Both of these topics are now being talked about more.

Being on a college campus, these two issues are extremely relevant, and on Thursday, March 10, in ’64 Hall, Dr. Nadia M. Richardson came to PC to lecture and answer questions on exactly these two topics, and how they are, surprisingly, very related to one another.  This lecture was organized by Active Minds, a club on campus.

Dr. Richardson, who graduated from Alabama University and has taught college classes on diversity, social justice leadership, and academic potential, opened the lecture by explaining how mental health often scares people, but that one really does not have to know much about mental health in order to be an advocate for it and for the people that suffer from it.

She explained that there is a stigma that comes with mental health, often brought about by the media, that causes people to shy away from issues involving mental health.  “Intentional programming and advocacy,” she explained, “are the only ways to re-envision wellness.”  This is where Dr. Richardson began to intertwine mental health with diversity, as she began to explain how the two are related to each other.

For example, she said that African Americans are less likely to utilize services such as therapy or psychologists because of mistrust and socio-cultural stigma.  In addition, Asians suffer from stress and anxiety more than the average person often due to a conflict between a strong identity with mainstream culture and traditional family values. People who are LGBTQIA often deal with bullying.  All of these things affect mental health wellness and are brought on because of a lack of acceptance of diversity.

Additionally, Dr. Richardson explained that many student activists get burnt out mentally because of the stress and time commitment of being a student activist.  She explained that mental health is often portrayed as very dangerous in the media, citing school shootings as examples of ways that the media stigmatizes mental health.

The media shows the end result of mental health concerns, but can mislead people by not showing that there usually is a lack of resources for those who have mental health issues, which can lead to terrible incidents.  While we should not absolve these people of their crimes, it should be noted that if they were given the proper resources, some tragedies may be avoided.  This is why advocacy, something that Dr. Richardson emphasized throughout the lecture, is so important and can be of so much help.

She explained that mental health should be understood as biological, psychological, and social, meaning that one’s mental health is determined by their biological makeup, their psychological makeup, and social interactions.  There have been many times in history where mental health was misunderstood or the media led people to believe false things about mental health.  She offered the examples that slaves who ran away would often be considered crazy, and LGBT used to be thought of as a mental illness.

Cassandra Caggiano ’18, a member of Active Minds and one of the main contributors in organizing “Minorities and Mental Health” at Providence College, said that she was pleased with both the turnout of students and the lecture itself.  She felt that after listening to Dr. Richardson speak at the National Mental Health Conference in California, students at PC needed to hear what she had to say.

She said that she and those at Active Minds felt that the conversation of mental health should be continued.  Caggiano explained that Dr. Richardson did not leave until 11:30 p.m. that night, after spending numerous hours talking with students long after the lecture had ended.

If there was an overarching message that was conveyed during the lecture, it was that mental health and diversity are very connected, and that we all must be advocates for mental health awareness.

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