Tuesday, March 10, 2015
CSW Day 3
Today was exactly what I hoped for: each session I attended delved into its topic in depth, including a range of perspectives and discussions on the intersections between mental health and human rights.
My favorite session was the first I attended, which explored women’s mental health in the post-2015 global agenda. The panelists covered an array of topics, from the impact of interpersonal violence to the mental health issues typically experienced by survivors of human trafficking.
One of the panelists, Dr. Yvette Rafferty, does exactly the kind of work I would like to do one day. Dr. Rafferty uses her PhD in Psychology to explore the mental health effects of human rights violations. She has performed extensive ethnographic research with a number of marginalized populations, including homeless persons, people living with HIV/AIDS, refugees, and survivors of human trafficking.
Afterwards, I sought her out, and ended up having a great conversation that continued even as we walked out of the Armenian Center together onto 2nd Avenue. I told her about my interest in using mental health interventions to combat the psychosocial impacts of discrimination, stigmatization, and persecution, and she suggested that I check out the Psychology PhD program at Pace University (in New York City), where she teaches courses and conducts research. Pace’s program includes a center devoted to queer mental health – one of the only such initiatives in the United States. Dr. Rafferty insisted that I attend her talk on Thursday, and also promised that she would make every effort to come during our own presentations on Wednesday. “Even if I can’t make it,” she said, “I’ll encourage my students to go.”
This interaction exemplifies the sorts of connections I hope to make during my time at CSW. Because global mental health is a relatively tiny field, it felt amazing to find someone with such similar interests and passions, and to engage in a genuine and productive conversation with her.
Tomorrow, I look forward to forging similar connections, and also to attending sessions on topics about which I’m far less knowledgeable (like, for example, the panel on ISIL at the Armenian Center tomorrow morning). My only complaint thus far is that this experience feels like it’s flying by – I want to savor every moment, and wring as much out of our time at CSW as we can.