Addressing Disparities in Adolescent Mental Health — Dr. Wenhua Lu

by Malina Seenarine

While a postdoctoral researcher at New York University School of Social Work, Dr. Wenhua Lu developed an interest in adolescent mental health, specifically with ethnic minorities in addressing and improving their mental health services.

For nearly a decade now, Lu’s research has been focused on adolescent mental health and healthcare disparities. 

The assistant medical professor at the CUNY School of Medicine aims to understand and prevent factors that lead to negative mental health and substance use among ethnic minority adolescents, and what can be done to address these risk factors and improve their mental health. 

Dr. Wenhua Lu

Lu’s research, which mostly focuses on adolescents and young adults, involves using national studies and primary data that she collected. 

By analyzing nationally representative data, Lu can identify disparities and gaps in research about adolescent mental health and service use. 

“By identifying these gaps, we can propose policy and also practice recommendations to both healthcare practitioners as well as policymakers to address these disparities,” said Lu in an interview with The RICC. 

Two of her most recent projects look at her research through the population level.

In one project, Lu analyzes national data from The National Survey on Drug Use and Health to identify gaps in the decline of care for adolescent mental health and substance use.   

The other analyzes the same data to compare the possible reasons why the need for mental health treatment was recently reported unmet among adolescents and young adults.

Dr. Lu’s research will be the first national estimate looking at possible reasons for unmatched treatment needs, particularly among adolescents. 

At a community level, Lu has recently begun working on an intervention project with the Bring Change to Mind Organization, a nationwide organization with a focus on dismantling mental health stigma in high school students. Its programs have been implemented in hundreds of high schools nationwide.

Lu’s intervention with the organization is the first program to specifically target Asian American students. Her goal is to improve their mental health knowledge, self-efficacy, and self-compassion to help improve their mental health-seeking attitudes and behaviors. 

For the intervention, Lu is working with fourteen students from a high school in Brooklyn. 

“We’re very excited about the launch of this project and hopefully it will be effective in improving the positive views of Asian American high school students towards mental health,” Lu said. 

Lu currently has two students from the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education at City College helping her with her research.

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