Mental health research can be life-changing. It allows us to predict factors that can affect mental health outcomes, appropriately explain conditions and their complexities, and understand strategies to improve, treat, and manage those conditions.
Unfortunately, mental health research has not always been inclusive. Historically, most study participants were middle-aged white men. What impact does a lack of representation have on health research? It turns out, a big one. Mental illness does not discriminate and can affect anyone no matter their background, gender, race, or ethnicity. Therefore, resources for mental health need to be created with diverse data behind them, rather than just information about one type of person. The more that research can reveal what makes each of us unique, the more tailored our healthcare can become.
At Active Minds, we are committed to inclusivity in mental health research and appreciate the impact that research organizations, such as our partners at the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Program, can have on improving health equity. Earlier this semester, we hosted a webinar featuring experts in mental health research who shared their findings and answered questions on everything from how data can support mental health to how social factors can affect well-being.
Allison Smith, assistant director of population health at New York University and 20×30 learning and action network researcher, started off the conversation by discussing her work with college students. Allison specifically shared details about the Wellbeing Improvement Survey for Higher Education Settings (WISHES), which aims to capture the mental health outcomes of young adults and hone in on factors that influence those outcomes. With this work, she and her team hope to improve students’ overall well-being, close the health equity gap, and inspire new leaders who actively strive for a more inclusive and healthy world.
Dr. Sasha Zhou, assistant professor at Wayne State University and principal investigator at the Healthy Minds Network, then shared information about both her career journey and her recent research on the effects of racism on young adults. Specifically, Dr. Zhou studies the impact of racism as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic on Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) college students. She is continuing to dive into how these findings can influence policy and practice to decrease the level of disparities related to mental health.
To wrap up the webinar, Vida Talab, a Master of Public Health student at Florida International University and program manager for the All of Us Research Program, explained her experience as a health researcher and program participant, sharing a few examples of what the All of Us Research Program is currently studying, and discussed the importance of diversity in mental health research. Most of all, she encouraged the attendees present to get involved in health research in whatever capacity is possible for them.
Thank you to our presenters for sharing their expertise and the work they do to support mental health research that benefits all of us, especially young adults. The All of Us Research Program is currently looking for at least one million participants from around the United States to join their journey in achieving equitable mental health care. For more information and to sign up as a participant visit joinallofus.org/activeminds. Finally, if you weren’t able to attend, or would like to share the webinar, the full version is available here.