2019 Lecture on Compassion to focus on cultivating mental health

The importance of promoting mental health and well-being among women, children and families will be the topic of the fourth annual Lecture on Compassion. Sona Dimidjian, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder, will discuss “Expanding Compassion: Reflections on Our Research, Practice, and Lives” at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 4, in 110 Henderson Building. The lecture is free and open to the public, with a reception following.

Dimidjian's talk will address how researchers and practitioners can most effectively study and practice compassion in a way that promotes individual healing and social change.

“Mental health problems and adversity are prevalent and impairing, including among parents, children and youth. Few who need support receive it, and many existing interventions do not offer lasting help,” said Dimidjian.

The Lecture on Compassion is an annual event developed and funded by Mark Greenberg, holder of the Edna Peterson Bennett Endowed Chair in Prevention Research, and his wife, Christa Turksma, a curriculum developer and teacher of mindfulness skills. The forum is intended to showcase the findings and perspectives of outstanding researchers and practitioners in the areas of awareness, compassion and empathy.

Compassion is the heart of prevention and intervention in human development,” said Robert Roeser, Bennett Pierce Professor of Caring and Compassion and professor of human development and family studies. “It is an active ingredient facilitating the care we extend to others who suffer, and also the antidote the one who is suffering is seeking.”

Dimidjian’s work focuses on motivating mental health and well-being among women, children and families by engaging people’s capacities for learning to best care for themselves and their communities. She develops and studies programs and practices in education and healthcare settings, with an emphasis on navigating key developmental transitions, such as the perinatal period, early childhood, and adolescence. She also has a longstanding interest in expanding access, scaling, and sustaining effective programs, using both digital technology and community-based partnerships.

She is the recipient of numerous teaching and clinical research awards, including the Dorothy Martin Women’s Faculty Award and the Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award at the University of Colorado Boulder; the Susan Hickman Award from Postpartum Support International; and the Women and Psychotherapy Award from Division 35 of the American Psychological Association. She received her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Chicago and her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Washington.

In addition to the annual Lecture on Compassion, Dimidjian will give a presentation on “Preventing and Treating Depression during the Perinatal Period” at 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday, April 3, at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, on behalf of the Child Study Center. She will discuss the ways in which a clinical psychological science approach to prevention and intervention helps to identify specific skills that support women’s well-being as well as delivery methods that prioritize access.

The College of Health and Human Development and the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center host the annual event. For more information on the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, visit prevention.psu.edu.