“I hope that, someday, we will have as open a conversation about mental health as we do about a fever or a broken bone,” said Akhil Kallepalli, IEEE Photonics Society Associate Vice President of Young Professionals.

The challenges encountered by marginalized community members in STEM are unique, particularly in relation to mental health—those with diverse backgrounds are likely to encounter microaggressions, unconscious bias, and a lack of representation at some point, making career growth more difficult. Young professionals entering STEM may not be prepared to manage these challenges.

To foster wellbeing and in support of marginalized community members’ mental health, the IEEE Photonics Society Young Professionals Advisory Committee (YPAC) is partnering with the Society’s Diversity Oversight Committee and Dragonfly Mental Health (DMH). DMH is a nonprofit organization dedicated to cultivating excellent mental health practices worldwide and developing and making available a series of online sessions designed to serve individuals’ diverse needs.

The following training sessions will be conducted. See details on when these sessions are available.

  • Mental Health Literacy: A session designed to raise awareness and initiate healthy conversations around the stigmas of mental health and its recognition, management, and prevention for marginalized community members.
  • Breaking the Stigma from Within: Discussions and journey spotlights focused on prominent, diverse members within the IEEE Photonics Society designed to break down conversational barriers and to hear personal accounts and experiences on mental health.
  • Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: An introduction to tools that can help make marginalized community members feel better placed and more confident in their roles and responsibilities—having feelings of inadequacy is a key concern that impacts professionals in every technical domain.
  • Intersectionality and Mental Health: A discussion focusing on the interconnected nature of identity and individuality, as well as how to serve as an effective ally and respect the voice of marginalized community members and those most isolated in STEM.
  • Mentorship as a Two-Way Street: A session centered on the concept of “Mentoring Up” and reciprocal communication best practices for facilitating mentor–mentee relationships, which can increase self-confidence and improve mental health, particularly when the latter feels supported in their decisions and career path.

Though these sessions have been designed with marginalized community members and young professionals in mind, all are welcome to participate in the series.

The sessions will be recorded and made available on demand. The first session, “Mental Health for Scientists: Challenges in Isolation,” is already available.

To join the next Mental Health Awareness session on 29 July 2021, hosted by the IEEE Photonics Society on the topic “Overcoming Imposter Syndrome,” register here.

To stay up to date on future sessions, please visit PhotonicsSociety.org.