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Speaker to address pandemic's toll on mental health in communities of color, need for tools to cope

Rheeda Walker, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Houston
Brandi Cooper
Rheeda Walker, professor of psychology at the University of Houston.

Communities of color have not only been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, the pandemic also has taken a heavy toll on their mental health in the last two years.

Psychologist Rheeda Walker, a professor and behavioral scientist at the University of Houston, said the social restrictions necessitated by the pandemic have ripped away a critical support system for people who are subject to daily discrimination and micro-aggression.

"That erodes an important part of our mental health preparation and what we do to stay functioning," said Walker, who will deliver the University of Rochester's 2022 Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative address at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21.

In her speech, Walker plans to talk about the challenges facing African Americans, the unequal access to mental health services, and the need and benefits of quality mental health care for all marginalized communities.

In 2020, Walker published "The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health."

The virtual event is free, but registrationis required by noon on Jan. 21.

Click on the audio icon above to hear an interview with Walker.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.