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Psychology graduate students’ discussion series aims to contribute to anti-oppressive dialogue and action

By U of R Faculty of Arts Posted: November 30, 2020 12:00 a.m.

Anti-Racism Series
Anti-Racism Series U of R Psychology Graduate Students' Association

 

An anti-racism initiative led by the University of Regina’s Psychology Graduate Students’ Association (PGSA) is attracting interest among students and practitioners of mental health services across North America. The PGSA has organized a virtual workshop program called the Anti-Racism Speaker Series, a series of panel discussions intended to engage with issues of anti-oppression.

The impetus behind the series is described in its promotional literature: “As training psychologists and mental health care providers, we have a responsibility to promote both the welfare of society as a whole and the welfare of all members of society. We have ethical duties to promote well-being, avoid doing harm, and act when we see discrimination. Given the current social climate and racial justice movement, we felt we owed it to our profession and our clients to do more to meet these moral and ethical responsibilities when it comes to the Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour in our communities.”

The first session in the series, ‘Racism in Mental Health’ took place in October, and featured a panel discussion between psychotherapist and anti-oppression consultant Richla Davis, wellness educator Tanya Turton, and mental health leader and activist Asante Haughton. The panel shared both their personal and professional experiences with racism, and discussed anti-oppressive approaches to mental health care. 128 attendees – including training and registered psychologists, social workers, and nurses – from across North America joined in the session, logging in from places like British Columbia, Newfoundland, Rhode Island, and Colorado.

Clinical psychology doctoral student Rachel Krakauer is former president of the Psychology Graduate Students' Association and the creator of the Anti-Racism Speaker Series. “The response to the first session was immediately positive,” she says. “The Zoom chat was filled with appreciation for our speakers sharing their narratives and knowledge. At the end of the 90-minute session, people still had so much to say. It was evident that our attendees felt both moved and motivated to keep fighting for social justice.”

Krakauer likens the opportunity to virtually engage with such esteemed mental health leaders to inviting ‘dream guests’ to a dinner table, and hopes for the series to function as a safe space for meaningful dialogue and the sharing of experiences. “Our speakers pull from personal narratives, research, and professional expertise’, she says. “And we have been honored to work with each of them thus far.”

Crucial to the aim of countering oppressive practice in mental health services, each session aims to include a series of actionable items. “Actionable items can be more general like – speak up when you hear others reinforcing stereotypes, engaging in microaggressions, or overt racism,’ says Krakauer. “Or they can be specific to the audience like – make a commitment to change your practices in therapy; for example, NAME symptoms as symptoms of racism for clients to give them that language.”

The PGSA is grateful for the promotional support the series has received from some high-profile national mental health programs, such as the Canadian Psychological Association, and Bell Let’s Talk. The series has also received financial support from the University of Regina’s Psychology Department, the U of R Graduate Students’ Association, the Regina Public Interest Research Group, Rising Youth, the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan, and Sasktel.

The group plans to organize 4-5 sessions in total over the course of the next year on topics such as racism in the fitness and wellness industries, and racism in one’s own community. The next session in the series takes place on Wednesday 2 December, 11:15 CST and will focus on systemic racism in research and academia. Anyone with an interest in the topic is invited to attend the Zoom panel: https://uregina-ca.zoom.us/j/96255457956.

Krakauer and the rest of the PGSA welcome the opportunity to engage the broader community of mental health practitioners they belong to and work together toward meaningful change. “Knowledge translation is a big part of being a psychologist, and we learn that early in training,” says Krakauer. “As graduate students, we have unique access to so many resources and it’s our responsibility to share those with others.” 

For updates on upcoming events in this series, follow the UofR Psychology Students’ Association on Instagram: @URPsychGrads and/or Facebook.