How can we address mental health inequities in the time of COVID-19?

Thursday, August 6, 2020


As COVID-19 has illuminated the pre-existing disparities in health care, it has also shown us the mental health inequities that face disadvantaged populations. Black , LatinX, and Indigenous communities face higher rates of COVID-19 which is a result of the existing health inequities they are faced with. These communities are now faced with additional mental stress that the pandemic brings. On Thursday, August 6 at 11:00am ET, the Aspen Global Innovators Group hosted 2020 Healthy Communities Fellow Erasma Monticciolo Executive Director of Power of Two and psychiatrist and Professor at UC Davis, Ruth Shim. This conversation was moderated by Dior Vargas, Latina feminist mental health activist and creator of the People of Color and Mental Illness Photo Project.

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Dior Vargas, People of Color and Mental Illness Photo Project

Dior Vargas, MS, MPH is a Latina Feminist Mental Health Activist and the creator of the People of Color and Mental Illness Photo Project, a response to the invisibility of Black Indigenous People of Color in the media representation of mental illness. She is also the editor of The Color of My Mind, a photo essay book based on the photo project. Dior tours the country delivering keynotes, hosting workshops, and speaking on panels. Her work and insight have been covered in media outlets such as The New York Times, Forbes, Newsweek, and NBC News Latino. Dior is the recipient of numerous awards, including the White House Champion of Change for Disability Advocacy Across Generations under the Obama Administration, 2015 Alternatives Conference Cookie Grant and Bill Compton LGBTQI Leadership Award, a 2017 Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame Inductee, and a 2020 Diversability D-30 Disability Impact List Honoree. Diorhas a BA in the Study of Women and Gender from Smith College, an MS in Publishing from Pace University, and an MPH from New York University. She is a native New Yorker and currently lives in New York City.

Erasma Monticciolo, Power of Two

Erasma is a native New Yorker who grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where she co-founded Power of Two in 2015. As the Executive Director, she uses science and community experience to mitigate the negative impact of intergenerational family trauma to build resilient and thriving communities. Through her work, Erasma lives her values every day, ensuring that children in New York City’s most vulnerable communities have opportunities to dream and achieve beyond their present circumstances.

Ruth Shiml, Professor and Chair of the Vice Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Faculty Excellence in Diversity at UC Davis Health

Dr. Shim is holder of the Luke & Grace Kim Professorship in Cultural Psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine. She is Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Director of Cultural Psychiatry, and Chair of the Vice Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Faculty Excellence in Diversity at UC Davis Health.

Dr. Shim received an MPH in health policy from Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and an MD from Emory University School of Medicine. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Association for Community Psychiatry.

She serves on the Editorial Boards of Psychiatric Services, Community Mental Health Journal,and American Psychiatric Publishing, and is co-editor of the book,The Social Determinants of Mental Health, and the upcoming book, Social (In)Justice and Mental Health, to be published in early 2021. She is a 2018-2019 Fellow of the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) Program, and an at-large member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Forum on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders. Dr. Shim’s research focuses on mental health disparities and inequities, and she provides clinical psychiatric care in the UC Davis Early Diagnosis and Preventative Treatment (EDAPT) Clinic.