Isaiah Pickens

Isaiah Pickens
Location: Los Angeles, California Cohort Start Year: 2017 Project Topics: Behavioral and Mental Health, Education, Violence and Trauma Populations Served: Adolescents (12-20 years), Children and Families, Low-Income Communities
Assistant Director, Service Systems Program
University of California, Los Angeles

Our life stories are written by the experiences that shape us and the people we care most about. When traumatic experiences shape these stories, it can become difficult to manage stress and build healthy relationships—particularly for children and teens. Trauma-informed practices, coupled with culturally responsive approaches that promote health equity and honor individuals’ multifaceted identities, are the most effective strategies for rewriting the stories of children and teens impacted by domestic violence, abuse, and a host of other traumas. In a Culture of Health, we will empower schools and other child-serving institutions to facilitate healing for our most vulnerable citizens and help grow the skills that have enabled these children to survive, by training institutions’ staff and supporting key decision-makers’ development of policies that promote trauma-informed and culturally responsive practices. By using evidence-based strategies to attend to the whole person and infusing these strategies with the values that undergird the communities being served, we can ensure that we use all resources at our disposal to create and sustain human stories that reflect a Culture of Health.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: Free Minds Personal & Professional Development Conference
Free Minds is a South by Southwest style experience that gives young adults in their 20s and 30s personal and professional development rooted in the science of emotional wellbeing. Scheduled for April 2020 in Los Angeles, the day-long event is designed to repurpose mainstream entertainment in a way that will promote a culture of wellness at work and lifestyles that prioritize mental and emotional wellbeing. Comedians, musicians, filmmakers, and mental health professionals will lead interactive experiences targeting mental health stigma among communities of color by sharing innovative strategies that use a deeper understanding of cultural identities to promote mental wellness. Lessons learned from Free Minds will be compiled into a report, educating agencies on how to use media to promote mental wellness, develop content that resonates with ethnically diverse communities, and build professional and personal skills for young adults, grounded in emotional wellbeing.

I am a licensed clinical psychologist and writer who fuses innovative public health messaging with clinical expertise to help individuals impacted by trauma and other mental health challenges heal toward a healthier version of themselves. My roles as assistant director of the Service Systems Program at the UCLA / Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress and as founder of iOpening Enterprises give me national platforms to creatively engage research practice and the arts to build a Culture of Health.

Click here to watch Isaiah’s Legacy Project video.