Mental Health Research and Practice Lab

Our Vision

The Mental Health Research and Practice Lab seeks to serve as a national center of excellence and create a pipeline for the implementation of affirmative, strengths-based research and practices that aim to heal and transform Black individuals, families, and communities.


The mission of the Mental Health Research and Practice Division is to identify barriers to mental health treatment for Black populations and to eliminate resulting disparities through mixed-methods community-engaged research.

Lab Director – Dr. Sonyia Richardson, LCSW

Dr. Sonyia Richardson is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work, Director of the Race and Social Equity Research Academy, and the Founder and Director of the Mental Health Research and Practice Lab at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. As a clinical behavioral researcher, her agenda focuses on developing and testing novel interventions aimed at reducing suicide among Black youth. In her lab, she aims to identify and remove barriers to mental health treatment for racially minoritized populations and eliminate resulting disparities through mixed-methods community-engaged research. As a respected scholar in the field of social work, she has published two co-edited books, produced numerous publications, and received over one million dollars in grant funding.

Lab Manager – Margaret Phipps, MSW, LCSWA

Margaret Phipps graduated with her Bachelor of Social Work in 2021 and Masters of Social Work in 2022, both from UNC Charlotte. She has a strong interest in research, with her primary area of interest being menstrual equity research and education. She has worked in a variety of research settings, including with the Urban Institute and with Dr. Sonyia Richardson as a former Graduate Research Assistant, and currently as a research assistant. Margaret is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker Associate and works with adults, adolescents, and children who have experienced trauma using Internal Family Systems and Child Centered Play Therapy.

Graduate Research Assistant – Arielle Conley, CPC

Arielle Conley graduated with her Bachelor’s in Sociology in 2016 from UNC Greensboro and is currently in the final year of the MSW program at UNC Charlotte. She is interested in research, policy, advocacy, and political social work. Specifically, she focuses on justice-involved individuals, the school-to-prison pipeline, and criminal justice reform. She has worked in different social work settings, including the school system, child welfare, and housing. She is currently employed as a social worker for INLIVIAN in Charlotte. Arielle is a Certified Life Coach and plans to pursue clinical licensure upon graduating in May 2023.

Graduate Research Assistant – Phil Martin

Phillip Martin Jr graduated with his Bachelor’s in Forensic Chemistry in 2021 from Appalachian State University with Forensics Certification. He is currently in his second year of the MSW program in Criminology at UNC Charlotte. He is interested in criminology, data analysis, and time analysis work. He hopes to further his research skills and pursue his doctorate after he graduates in the Summer of 2023.

Graduate Research Assistant – Matthew Cyr

Matthew Cyr graduated with his Bachelor of Social Work in 2022 from UNC Charlotte and is currently pursuing a Master of Social Work degree. His primary interest is in substance use and macro-level drug policy. He is currently interning with Alianza Center for Prevention Services, the first and only drug-free coalition serving Latinx youth and families.

Current Research

CA-LINC Research Study (IRB-22-0369)

Are you interested in giving feedback to help us design a prevention and intervention program to support Black youth wellbeing?


The purpose of CA-LINC study is to hear from Black youth (ages 14-17), parents/caregivers, mental health/health providers, and community members about the various needs Black youth encounter when trying to receive mental health services. We would like to hear from these experiences so that we can improve mental health programs that aim to improve mental wellbeing and reduce suicide risk for Black youth.


Links to copies of the flyers are listed below and include additional details regarding the study and eligibility.

Printable Flyers with Tabs


The focus group sessions will be held via a private password-protected Zoom room.


Participants will receive a total of $60.00 in Amazon Gift Cards (A $20.00 Gift Card will be rendered by email after participation in each of the three 60-minute focus group sessions)

Interested in participating or learning more?

Please email and leave your name, phone number and email address or call 704-687-7935.

Principal Investigators:

Sonyia Richardson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
UNC Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28223

Michelle Vance, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
North Carolina A & T State University, 1601 E. Market Street, Greensboro, NC 27411

Kimberley Gryglewicz, Associate Professor
University of Central Florida, 12805 Pegasus Drive, Orlando, FL 32816

Laura Gunn, Ph.D., Associate Professor
UNC Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28223

Marc Karver, Ph.D., Associate Professor
University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33620


This study is funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health of the National Institute of Health, Grant Number 1R34MH129782-01.