October 10, 2021
This year’s theme for World Mental Health day is Mental Health in an Unequal World. While the uneven distribution of mental health resources both within and between countries springs to mind there are many other inequalities that I hope will be thought about through reflection on this theme. These include inequalities driven by race, sexuality, gender identity, socio-economic status, access to technology and others.
In reflecting on these areas, it is also incumbent on us to think of the ways that we as clinicians, administrators, researchers and members of our communities also contribute to the construction and perpetuation of these inequalities. Reading the blogs by Beshaun Davis and Katharine Rimes and listening again to my conversation with Myrna Lashley I see a number of areas in which we can begin to do this. Among many other lessons from Beshaun and Myrna is the need to practice cultural humility as a precursor to creating cultural safety. Katharine’s blog reminds me that this needs to be applied as much to people of different sexualities as to cultures and I would also extend this to people of different gender identities. Second, through these blogs and Myrna’s compassion and wisdom I have seen the need to examine the basis of the knowledge that we take into practice. On what groups was the evidence we rely upon established? Did it include people from the same groups as those we are working with? What lens was applied to the original research questions? Did the understanding of knowledge that informed the research questions and analysis take into account the way that knowledge is understood and shared in the communities to which we want to apply this evidence?
Beyond ourselves, the theme of World Mental Health Day challenges us to engage in examination of the clinical, research, funding and administrative systems in which we work. These systems are an accumulation of the assumptions and biases that have informed their development over extended periods of time. It is often difficult to see the ways in which this accumulation of factors impacts on the access and engagement of different groups. Both blogs and Myrna’s comments provide ideas of ways to address these. Chief among these is ensuring that our workforces contain a diversity of voices and an environment in which it is safe for these voices to make themselves heard.
I have valued the blogs and my conversation with Myrna for the way that they have challenged me to think about what I am doing. I hope you will also engage with them and find ideas for how you can respond so that collectively we can reduce the inequality in mental health.
President, IEPA Early Intervention in Mental Health