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Berkeley Forum hosts panel on mental health, psychedelic treatment

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Speakers Ayize Jama-Everett, Marlena Robbins and David Bryce Yaden discuss the impact of psychedelic treatments on mental health.


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MARCH 15, 2023

The Berkeley Forum hosted a panel on the future of mental health treatment through psychedelics on Tuesday, featuring speakers Ayize Jama-Everett, Marlena Robbins and David Bryce Yaden

Open to the Berkeley community, the panel was hosted in Dwinelle Hall and had an attendance of about 40 people.

As a part of the Berkeley Forum’s lineup for spring 2023, the panel focused on emerging research on mental health and psychedelic treatments. The panelists discussed the importance of inclusivity of people of color and indigenous communities within psychedelic clinical trials, while noting how to be culturally understanding during these studies, said event manager Lu Patterson in an email.

“It’s also important to note the history of psychedelic use,” Patterson said in the email. “Psychedelic use has been around in indigenous communities for centuries, and these communities hold some of the most important plant knowledge. We must consider and use this knowledge moving forward in psychedelic research and policymaking surrounding them.”

During the forum, co-panelist Jama-Everett juxtaposed psychedelics with plant medicine to recognize how the trauma and experiences of people of color make them important candidates for psychedelic research.

Jama-Everett also described the renaissance of psychedelics “as a death and rebirth of the self,” which he noted could be beneficial for marginalized communities.

“What you generally tend to find is that some psychedelic or mind-altering traditions that have been kept alive usually in this country have been criminalized,” Jama-Everett said. “If any great revolution is going to happen with psychedelics, you’re gonna have to look at who gets to have access and in what way.”

He noted that this “renaissance” would fail to benefit marginalized communities if only the elite gained access to psychedelics, explaining that this rebirth must work to combat the oppression of Black and brown populations.

Jama-Everett and co-panelist Robbins also spoke on the importance of redefining the notion of psychedelic treatment, being culturally sensitive to the healing qualities of psychedelics and recognizing the stigmatization of psychedelic use that has harmed marginalized communities.

Robbins also discussed the importance of psychedelic use in ceremonial practices within tribal nations to heal their generational trauma but noted the limited accessibility that indigenous communities have to psychedelics.

Co-panelist Yaden described psychedelics as a “microcosm” of problems in society, citing the widespread inequalities and a lack of diversity in this research.

He also spoke about the lack of federal funding in research as well as how protocols regarding psychedelic treatments should consider the safety of the consumer.

“There seems like there’s often a trade-off between safety and access, at least the way that we think about it in the research context,” Yaden said. “If we want to create models that can be scaled down and are accessible to people, given our current underinvestment in our healthcare system in our society, we really do have to think about trade-offs there and finding a way to do everything that we can safety-wise while also allowing access.”

Yaden noted that, while many medical researchers are nervous about teenagers’ use of psychedelics, the increase of mental illness amongst adolescents may implore researchers to look for other treatments, describing psychedelics as a “very powerful” treatment for clinicians.

While Yaden discussed the importance of continuing research on mental health treatment through psychedelics, he also hopes to advance the study of psychedelics in regard to well-being and spirituality.

“It’s important that there’s at least some small room to study the potential for psychedelics to increase well-being in non-clinical samples, healing who (doesn’t) necessarily have a clinical diagnosis,” Yaden said. “These experiences are often rated as among the most meaningful moments in someone’s life. And so as a psychologist, as a scientist, I think that’s absolutely fascinating and worthy of real, sincere, rigorous scientific research.”

Contact Matthew Yoshimoto at 


MARCH 15, 2023