Priscilla LuiNobel Conference 58

Priscilla Lui

Priscilla Lui

Associate Professor of Psychology, Southern Methodist University

Scientific understanding of racism and discrimination experiences: A path toward mental health equity

Young people are exhibiting symptoms of depression at alarmingly high rates, and responding to them with maladaptive coping mechanisms such as substance abuse and misuse. According to the World Health Organization, adolescents from minoritized racial, ethnic or sexual backgrounds and members of other marginalized groups are at greater risk of mental health conditions, in part because of the ways they may internalize or externalize symptoms. The more risk factors the youth have, the greater potential impact on their mental health. To provide effective interventions and care to address this significant mental health problem, it is important that mental health workers understand the roles played by cultural values in mental health.

Priscilla Lui studies the role of cultural values in mental health by researching “acculturation orientation” (the ways in which a member of a minoritized group maintains their culture of origin and participates in mainstream culture) and the impact it has on behaviors and adjustment outcomes (positive and negative indications about whether an individual is adjusting to their context). In particular, she has examined the use of alcohol in 18-to-22-year-olds. Adolescents and young adults are highly susceptible to stress, due to the developmental changes that occur during these periods; their ability to make decisions is heavily influenced by their cognitive, emotional, and social development. Findings from Lui’s research suggest that being immersed in one’s ethnic society can have a protective role for one’s mental health; fewer negative personal and social alcohol-related consequences are experienced by young adults who are more encultured with their ethnic heritage and more acculturated with the new culture. 

Priscilla Lui is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Southern Methodist University. She serves as the principal investigator of the Acculturation, Diversity, and Psychopathology Team (ADAPT) at Southern Methodist University, leading research that aims to inform and influence clinical interventions for culturally diverse populations. Lui received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Purdue University. 

Lui's talk: Systemic racism, and direct and indirect experiences with racial discrimination have been theorized and shown to drive health disparities. These social disadvantages are markers for mental health outcomes among people of color, including psychological distress and maladaptive alcohol and drug use. Emerging research has focused on how, for whom, and in what contexts discrimination-related experiences affect mental health. For example, do blatant discrimination and minor, everyday discrimination (sometimes, “microaggressions) affect people’s psychological experiences differently? With the advancement of virtual reality technologies, psychological science on discrimination can leverage this tool to understand the effects of racial discrimination—and the pathways by which it affects mental health outcomes—in real time. Priscilla Lui will discuss how racial discrimination is linked to alcohol craving and drinking outcomes among young adults of color, and share findings from studies across methodological innovations. She also will discuss what people of color and allies can do to reduce the negative impact of racial discrimination, and how virtual reality technologies may be used in such contexts.