Local mental health experts came together Tuesday night at the Pacifica Graduate Institute to discuss and educate on the recent issues and potential solutions surrounding the Santa Barbara community’s mental health.
The panel was introduced by the President and CEO of Pacifica Graduate Institute, Leonie Mattison, “Our expert alumni and faculty do not attempt to fix anybody, but rather invite every human being to be more curious about their experience and self. We do not embrace any savior complex.”
“In recent years the dialogue surrounding mental health has really gained attention,” said Danah Williams, panel moderator and CEO of California Coastal Counseling. “It’s a topic that transcends race, age and social status.”
The panel of local experts started their conversation around the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“All of us have our psychological San Andreas fault lines,” said Dr. Matthew Bennett, co-chair of the Pacifica psychology department. “Given the right psychological circumstances, those can be disrupted. We are not coming back to the world that we knew.”
Much of the discussion was about Zoom and other online platforms’ potential to be both a tool and a threat.
“There are so many great things we’ve learned from the pandemic. Especially for youth, college-aged students, it’s important to have face-to-face interactions [while they are still developing], to have that light conversation in the office,” said Rachel Steidl, founder and executive director of Youthwell.
The panel also offered some issues to be solved as society moves past the pandemic.
“We still have a statewide shortage of therapists, and especially therapists that want to work in trauma,” said Barry Schoer, president and CEO of the Sanctuary Centers of Santa Barbara. “Who gets hurt the most by this? People with low incomes and minority groups, who will lose access.”
Jonathan Thompson II offered a more personal perspective to aiding groups with less mental health treatment access. Focusing on the black community, the practicing psychologist said, “How do we break this stigma? The first part is just starting the conversation, creating the space, letting people know that if they open up you’ll be a listening ear.”
“In an African American family it’s about taking the opportunity to reframe a different narrative about modeling, not shaming. Not calling crazy, but addressing,” said Ms. Williams, the panel
Looking forward in the field of psychology, Dr. Bennett said, “Where we can help is to find students who are warm and thoughtful and sensitive and in-tune, and then give them the skills to address the mental illnesses in their community, and hopefully have them stay for a little while.”