Blog /Inside View of "The Cultural Competency Mental Health Summit" by Yaffa Alter
Now in its 17th year, the Cultural Competency Mental Health Summit XVII took place on June 27-28, 2011 and was hosted by Santa Clara County and held at the Doubletree in San Jose. This year’s theme was "Promoting Equity in Health Services: The Power of Community Based Solutions." I was fortunate enough to attend, as it brought together people from various backgrounds and united health professionals, mental health consumers, family members, community leaders, educators and many others to focus on and consider implementing both traditional and non-traditional community practices, as well as holistic approaches to rectify disparity in the mental health arena.
The focuses of the conference was to promote change, incorporate community involvement, go over the significance of spirituality in healing, and have solution focused ideas, as well as strive to heal underserved and non-served communities that represent the Diaspora of humanity. The workshops were designed to support and promote dialogue and to develop strategies for addressing stigma and discrimination amongst LGBTQ individuals, those from different ethnic/cultural backgrounds, and diverse spiritual beliefs/way of life. Each session spoke to the health disparities that exist, as well as, a way in which all communities can become stronger and healthier. The exchange of information at the conference allowed the attendees to have an open and honest forum about the misunderstanding and lack of representation that people in the mental health system have of being ignored and invisible.
The appointed keynote speakers promoted becoming more responsive to others' ethnic/cultural background as opposed to merely being "competent." Moreover, the designated keynote speakers also reiterated the importance of embracing each person’s own personal understanding of spirituality as a mystical experience with deep emotions that provides hope, connectedness, and meaning to each person differently. In fact, on the last day of the summit, Dr. Gloria Morrow emphasized this point by stating, "If you want me to embrace you, you have to embrace me. If I respect you, you should respect me." Dr Morrow also asserted that in order for us all to get connected, we must reach out to others and get within ourselves.
As quoted by Teilhard de Chardin, I too believe that, "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience." With that said, I personally look forward to the continued dialogue that such conferences as the Cultural Competency Mental Health Summit XVII created in order for an awakening and awareness to take place in society.