By Anthony Esbensen
Delaware County Community College hosted a seminar to promote diversity and mental health to help create better people and a better community.
“Dialogues for Diversity, Equity, and Mental Health: Collective Burnout; Collaborative Restoration” was held virtually on Feb. 22 with the goal of showing how equity and mental health affect society.
These seminars take place five times a year, said Simmee Myers, chief diversity and inclusion officer at DCCC. Myers began her tenure in November 2019 and knew she needed to make an impact.
Myers said these seminars started in July 2020 in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing.
“We saw the need for the community to come together… knowing that most people don’t have a ton of exposure to people from different backgrounds. That’s how we are a bit divided in this country.”
Myers knew it was crucial during these tough times to bring people together. These seminars are for people to gain perspectives and understand what others are going through.
The first of two speakers, Antione Taylor, attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and is a neuropsychologist for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
Taylor examines the perception of skin color, and how these perceptions affect health care outcomes for minorities and can also be predictors of cardiovascular and brain issues, according to UMBC’s website.
The second speaker, Esther Castillo, is an alumnus of Delaware County Community College. She is a scholar, sociologist, educator, and advocate for mental health and social justice who founded the Chinese Immigrant Families Wellness Initiative.
Myers felt very strongly about pointing out Castillo was a member of DCCC, “It is really important to highlight the awesome things she is doing—and she started at the college.”
The message was made clear mental health and mental wellness are two different things. Mental health is more about a diagnosis. Mental wellness is what we go through on a day-to-day basis.
Taylor explained how mental health is a continuum with three parts: Cognitive health, emotional health, and behavioral health. Castillo stressed, “It is important we understand these three parts all play into each other.”
Taylor and Castillo also addressed the impact gender and race roles can have on mental health. Thinking an individual must play a specific role or fit a stereotype creates unreal and unhealthy expectations that can affect that person. The speakers explained audience members can improve mental health and mental wellness by becoming more socially active. Talking to others is an important step that develops social skills. And making changes for better physical health will also improve well-being overall because the body and mind are interconnected. Castillo used to think mental health was something you kept to yourself. However, she found this thinking creates shame and guilt and keeps people from getting help. So, she decided to do things to help others improve their mental health.