October 2020 - Dr. Carla Desi-Ann Hunter

Dr. Carla Desi-Ann Hunter is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology. She studies ethnic minority psychology, cultural competency in mental health services, and identity and well-being among African-descended people living in the United States. Her research emphasizes the impact of race-related stress (such as being in a racial minority or racial discrimination) on mental health, and focuses on Black immigrant populations in the United States in order to identify the development of these health outcomes.

Dr. Hunter directs the Cultural Heritage and Racial Identity Lab, and works with the Clinical-Community Psychology program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Health Interest Group Flier

The Health Interest Group interviewed members of the community regarding the needs of Spanish-speaking patients at the Frances Nelson Health Center, a local community health organization that provides mental and physical health services to uninsured people in Champaign County.

This flier requested participants who could speak to their experiences with the existing mental health service infrastructure, as well as what needs they had that could be met more effectively.

From the University Archives

The Center for Democracy in a Multiracial Society (CDMS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign supported several projects related to Dr. Hunter's areas of interest, including immigration, race, and ethnic minority health. 

The Mental Health Working Group, managed through the CDMS, began as the Health Interest Group in 2003. Composed primarily of professors and graduate students in the psychology, education, and social work departments, the Mental Health Working Group investigated ways to make mental health care more accessible to Spanish-speaking Latino/a immigrants.

Health Interest Group Meeting Notes, August 29, 2005

Notes from a Health Interest Group meeting that Dr. Hunter participated in, shortly after joining the faculty of the University of Illinois.

Although Dr. Carla Hunter was not one of the principal members of the working group, she participated in at least some of their meetings after she joined the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the summer of 2005. Her expertise in the mental health of immigrants and students of color at predominantly-white institutions, including the University of Illinois, was well-suited to the goals of the working group. Dr. Hunter also emphasizes the importance of cultural competencies among physicians, as well as the "collective notions of well-being" among students and community members.

"The long-term goal of the Mental Health Working group is to reduce the disparities in access ot high quality health care experienced by individuals from marginalized groups. More specifically, individuals who are Latino/a, who are primarily Spanish speaking, and who are socioeconomically disadvantaged have little to no access to high quality mental health care. The mission of the group is to examine cultural and language issues that interfere with these underserved populations receiving high quality mental health care..." Mental Health Working Group, Final Report: Academic Year 2006-2007, University Archives Record Series 24/14/1, Box 7

Mental Health Working Group, Final Report: Academic Year 2006-2007

The final report of the Mental Health Working Group for the 2006-2007 school year. In order to meet the needs of Spanish-speaking immigrant clients at the over-burdened Frances Nelson Health Center, as well as give practical training to bilingual graduate students, the working group developed a Spanish-speaking mental health services practicum. During this year, they also conducted a needs assessment and wrote several grant applications.

The Mental Health Working Group listed several outcomes in their 2006-2007 report. First, they conducted a needs assessment with four interpreters at the Frances Nelson Health Center. Because few employees at Frances Nelson spoke Spanish, Spanish-speaking clients needed to have an interpreter present during therapy sessions, which inhibited successful mental health care. The researchers suggested that a bilingual therapist would lead to more successful outcomes with Spanish-speaking patients because there would be fewer linguistic and cultural barriers to overcome.

Second, the working group developed a Spanish-speaking practicum for three graduate students (two in Psychology and one in Educational Psychology) to provide therapy services to Spanish-speaking patients at Frances Nelson, under the direction of a local Latina psychologist.  The group found the practicum successful, but identified several areas for improvement during the 2007-2008 school year, including further training for the practicum students and additional cooperation with the physical health care providers at Frances Nelson Health Center.

Finally, the Mental Health Working Group wrote a grant requesting funds from the National Institute of Mental Health to develop a University-Community cooperation program to increase mental health literacy in Spanish-speaking populations in small urban areas like Champaign-Urbana. They also published several articles and book chapters during the 2006-2007 year.

To Learn More

To learn more about the Mental Health Working Group and the Center for Democracy in a Multiracial Society, schedule an appointment to visit the University Archives. 

Center for Democracy in the Multiracial Society (CDMS) Subject File, 200-2011

Record Series: 24/14/1

Link to Collection in Archon