M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust
A collage of three panelists for a Mental Health and Cultural Differences webinar; on the left, a woman with black curly hair wearing pink lipstick and a blue tie; in the middle, a woman with dark hair wearing a lei and a flower in her hair; on the right, a woman with long brown hair wearing a denim shirt.
Left: Vyshika Willis; Middle: Sala Afalava; Right: Esmy Jimenez

Lifting the Fog: Mental Health and Cultural Differences

October 19, 2023, 10-11AM Pacific

Did your family ever tell you that grownups don’t cry? Were you encouraged to rest and seek care when you were feeling down, or to ignore it? What traditions, sayings, or habits did you grow up around that formed your ideas about mental health? The answers are part of what makes up your cultural perception of mental health. As Pacific Northwest communities are increasing in cultural diversity, chances are the people you work, live, play, and worship alongside have a variety of ways they think about mental wellbeing, care, and resilience, too.

In this third webinar of the Lifting the Fog: Mental Health series (see first and second webinars here), moderated by The Seattle Times’ Esmy Jimenez, two practitioners and experts in culturally responsive mental health care from Murdock Trust grantees will consider how we can better live alongside and support those with different mental health beliefs than our own. Vyshika Willis at Avel Gordly Center for Healing at OHSU and Sala Afalava at Asia Pacific Cultural Center discuss questions such as: What are some of the different ways our cultural background influences our ability or likelihood to receive care? How can I have productive conversations with those who see this topic from a different lens? How do I encourage someone to seek care, when they might have internalized that care is not for people like them? And how do we make our communities into places that foster mental wellbeing for those of all backgrounds?

Join us to consider these questions and more on October 19, 2023 at 10am Pacific Time.


Vyshika M. Willis is a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist at OHSU Avel Gordly Center for Healing. Ms. Willis’s approach to therapy is rooted in a systemic and relational lens and framework. She believes the various systems an individual is connected to (family, educational, judicial, political, medical, etc.), albeit intentional or not, impacts how a person relates to and engages with that system. Utilizing trauma informed, solution-focused, and contextual theories, Ms. Willis works collaboratively with clients to guide them toward a space where healing can flourish.

Vyshika is extremely passionate about bringing awareness to and lifting the voices of those who are underrepresented, underprivileged, and/or marginalized. Her mission is to bring awareness to and the effectiveness of mental health as a resource and decreasing stigma in Black communities.

Sala Afalava is one of very few licensed mental health therapists in the state of Washington who is of Samoan, Pacific Islander descent. She is fluent in her native Samoan language and uses it to educate, empower, and expand the awareness of mental health across various generations in her community.

Sala closely works with the Asia Pacific Cultural Center (APCC) in servicing the Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community through workshops and community conversations regarding mental health in addition to sponsored therapy sessions.

In addition, Sala also provides counseling services to clients at her privately owned practice, New Hope Counseling PLLC. The underrepresentation of clinician providers in WA and the U.S. inspired Sala to pursue a PsyD. Sala is a third-year doctorate student in Clinical Psychology at Northwest University, Kirkland.

Her clinical experience includes working with adolescents and adults with anxiety concerns, trauma treatment with EMDR, life transitions, and relationship issues. Sala believes each individual is unique and tailors her approach accordingly. Her theoretical viewpoint combines Person-Centered Therapy, Existential Approach, CBT, ACT, and EMDR. She values her clients and their healing processes and is dedicated to their growth.

Esmy Jimenez is a reporter covering mental health at The Seattle Times. During her time, she’s profiled young, Latino voters for a national collaboration, reported from dozens of protests for racial justice in 2020, and covered the detention and deportation of immigrant youth. She’s a former investigative fellow with Reveal & The Center for Investigative Reporting as well as the ProPublica Data Institute and has earned both print and audio awards for her work.

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