BIPOC mental health panel discusses societal racism, social injustice

During PRIME on Sept. 28, the Student Executive Council (SEC) hosted a panel discussion in the library on Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) mental health. Featuring speakers like Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) Mental Health and Wellness Supervisor Genavae Dixon, Gunn Mental Health and Wellness Specialist Michelle RamosMichelle Ramos, Gunn Psychologist Evan Watanabe and SafeSpace Managing Director Annie Kim, the panel discussed the unique challenges BIPOC face concerning societal racism, systemic barriers and social injustice specifically in the health and medical system. 

Diversity Commissioner sophomore Sophia Howell helped organize the event. “The purpose of the event was to look at mental health intersectionality and the barriers many BIPOC faces in accessing mental health,” she said. “Having panels like this and having these discussions really helps to lessen these barriers and increase knowledge on how to go about accessing mental health care and what that entails.”

After the panel was almost canceled due to complications with Flexisched, Howell is glad the event occurred. “I’m glad that so many people came to be informed on this topic, whether or not it relates to them personally, or through a community,” she said.

This month, Diversity Commissioner junior Chania Rene-Corail and the other Wellness and Diversity Commissioners have focused on highlighting mental health in communities of color. They also aimed to bring attention to the resources students have access to when seeking help in a system of disparity. “I think a really important thing about diversity is inclusivity and intersectionality,” Rene-Corail said. “I thought it would be very interesting to have some sort of campaign or education to talk to the student body about that type of intersectionality and how being a person of color affects that [mental health] aspect of your life.”

Students and staff listen to the BIPOC mental health panelists on Wednesday (Safina Syed)

Sophomore Aarya Bhushan enjoyed that the event addressed the stigma surrounding mental health throughout different cultures. “Every culture has its own stigma and even though a lot of the panelists come from different cultures and backgrounds, they were still able to relate to the fact that there is a barrier between asking for help,” she said. “I think that will help us as students overcome that with our families and our cultures.” Bhushan also found the event helpful in supplying resources for students’ mental health. “I got to know about resources that are offered at Gunn that I didn’t know about before and I think [the panelists] presented themselves as people that I can go up to if I need any help with anything,” she said.