COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES 7 sciences. “It also tells you a lot about what’s going on in the subsurface where these large earthquakes happen.” Ecuador sits above the Nazca Plate which is subducting beneath the South American Plate. The downgoing Nazca plate has extensive topography on the seafloor, large volcanic ridges and seamounts. Meltzer and her colleagues are examining the extent to which the roughness on the downgoing plate prevents an earthquake rupture from propagating or serves as a point where the plates couple and build up stress serving as points that initiate ruptures resulting in an earthquake. Meltzer and her colleagues are currently using a dense array of 300 sensor to image the plate interface of the Pedernales earthquake rupture and the physical properties along the plate interface with a specific interest in role played by fluids. Fluids can reduce the stress at which this interface might rupture. In this region, there is a transition from sections that seem to rupture and produce large earthquakes while other parts slip slowly without generating large earthquakes. “The difference may be related to plate roughness and fluid release in these environments. We now know these slow slip events are part of that earthquake cycle. The energy released during these events can be on the order of a large earthquake.” During the Pedernales sequence, the mainshock was a magnitude 7.8 while the energy in these slow slip events was equal to a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. They are releasing energy but slowly over weeks and sometimes months rather than seconds. Meltzer is trying to understand what controls the transition from patches that rupture quickly in earthquakes to those that slip slowly. “This segment of the Ecuador subduction margin has ruptured repeatedly in large magnitude earthquakes. Understanding why these large earthquakes happen where they do and whether there are factors that limit the extent of the rupture helps us understand the likely possible maximum magnitude earthquake that can occur. The larger the magnitude, the larger the ground shaking and the greater the potential damage. We need to understand why, in these interfaces between two plates, some patches rupture and some patches don’t in these large magnitude earthquakes.” SOCIOLOGY RACISM IN MENTAL HEALTH CARE It has been widely documented that in Black communities, mental disorders are more acute and persistent than other neighborhoods, yet African Americans living in these areas are less likely to seek out psychiatric services. Sociologist Sirry Alang looks at the mental health disparities that pervade these communities and argues that racism within the mental health profession, and the resulting lower-quality care, yields an unmet need for mental health care. Alang, associate professor of sociology and member of the health, medicine and society program, explores the role of social structures and institutions in creating biases in health care and many resulting outcomes. Her latest research explores how racism is linked to the reasons why African Americans with mental health problems might neither seek nor receive the services they need. These challenges shape the ways in which people experience other institutions. These experiences influence the way they anticipate being treated by the mental health system. Racism causes mistrust in mental health service systems, and people do not make use of services because they distrust the systems in general, she says. “If they experience racial discrimination at work or in the streets, they expect to experience racial discrimination in the clinic. Even if they don’t experience it, just the belief they might be is enough that they’ll try to minimize their exposure to other places where they might be discriminated, including mental health care providers and the mental health care system,” Alang says. Economic status, lack of health insurance and overall health contribute to the reasons why African Americans report unmet need for mental health care. Alang posits that reducing uninsurance rates among African Americans will decrease a percentage of unmet need. Addressing these issues might reduce structural and informational barriers to mental health care as well as the stigma of seeking help. “There’s more talk about mental health,” Alang says. “More communities are open to discussing mental health and what mental health looks like in our community. There is also more access because of the Affordable Care Act and access to mental health services in general, but there are still some gaps. The barriers we can address, like information and access, we can address those easily. We are training more therapists and psychiatrists and clinicians who are Black. That enables more people to go, but the barrier we haven’t addressed is the discrimination, the fear of how people will be perceived in the health care setting.” To eliminate these inequalities, racism and the mistrust it has caused must be tackled, she says. Delivering mental health services in ways that engage the racial context within which Blacks experience mental health problems is necessary. This should include requiring anti-racism and critical race theory education as part of the professional training of clinicians, researchers and policy makers, she adds. “What would happen if I went to a doctor for my mental health as opposed to if I just hang out and distrust the system altogether?” she asks. “We should train our mental health providers better. We should confront the fact that mistrust is real even if people haven’t experienced it. How patients experience care matters.” EDU LEON / GETTY IMAGES A man observes the aftermath of the earthquake that struck Pedernales, Ecuador.