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Sarah Lowe, PhD, on a Public Health Approach to Mental Health

Sarah Lowe, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Yale School of Public Health. Her research focuses on the long-term mental health consequences of a range of potentially traumatic events, from hurricanes to pandemics. 

While doing her clinical training with trauma survivors at a community health care center in Boston, Lowe's patients were dealing with more immediate life stressors, like not having a place to live. 

"That showed me that you can't understand mental health without paying attention to the context and the social and economic stressors that trauma survivors face," she says. Lowe explains that within public health "we're able to look at those things simultaneously. So both the symptoms and treating symptoms but also thinking about systems and policies that both put people at risk for trauma, but then make their traumatic experiences even more negatively impactful." 

As a disaster mental health researcher, Lowe immediately knew the COVID-19 pandemic was going to be a mental health crisis. She's collaborated with students and other faculty on work related to the pandemic and mental health, particularly the mental health burden of health care workers on the frontlines. 

"I can say in this pandemic, Yale was able to provide support to me and to my colleagues to do really cutting-edge research. Just observing my colleagues  on the forefront of the response to the pandemic doing things like modeling transmission, understanding the genetics of the virus, that's been really really inspiring to see."

Research and Practice

Since its founding in 1915 by C.E.-A. Winslow, a founding father of public health in America, the Yale School of Public Health researchers have introduced important medical and health advances, helping to ameliorate problems that affect public health around the globe. Today our research spans a wide range of subjects from emerging threats such as COVID-19, infectious, chronic and behavioral diseases, health equity and social determinants of health, the environment and more. Our researchers approach their work from many perspectives, including epidemiology, biostatistics, modeling, policy and economics, management, laboratory science including microbiology and the -omics.