Supporting mental health equity among Black youth in Waltham

November 30, 2020

Maria Madison, associate dean for equity, inclusion and diversity
Maria Madison

Associate Dean for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Maria Madison leads ongoing research into racial equity and mental health for Black students, parents and staff from local Waltham High School. The work is conducted in partnership with Community Health Network Area 17 (CHNA 17), a coalition of public health representatives from Waltham and neighboring towns focused on community engagement and racial equity through evidence-based interventions and initiatives.

Madison and a team of Heller alumni and graduate research assistants facilitated a series of small-group “Devine Dialogues” on mental health, race and equity. These roundtable discussions used Psychology Professor Patricia Devine’s de-biasing interventions and incorporated methods of culturally responsive teaching, cultural humility principles and racial literacy.

The dialogues promote racial literacy to counter bias while promoting self-awareness, self-care and resources for mental health and well-being. The goals include identifying barriers to seeking mental health support for Black youth, characterizing stigma associated with mental health services and improving cultural competence among mental health professionals.

“Mindfulness is a way of taking steps into getting to know oneself and one’s experiences,” says Juliet Najjumba, Brandeis staff member and director of Africano, a Waltham-based nonprofit. As a Devine Dialogues participant and partner, she says, “The dialogue helped to address a lot of issues that are really there but hardly talked about.”

Blue-tinted image of a Black youth with the quote: “Mindfulness is a way of taking steps into getting to know oneself and one’s experiences.” Juliet Najjumba, Brandeis staff member and director of Africano, a Waltham-based nonprofit

research impact highlightsThis story is part of the 2020 Heller Social Policy Impact Report, showcasing a selection of high-impact research and public engagement from the faculty, researchers and students of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management from July 2019 through June 2020.

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