A community of action makes mental health and wellness a priority for each of its members. It identifies mental health concerns on campus and nurtures honest, open conversations about what change means. It hears and validates each person’s voice. It reduces stigma, recognizes the impact of societal experiences, and reduces barriers to seeking care. It encourages help seeking.
To become such a community, change must take place in the classroom, on the field, in sororities and fraternities, and in the administration. What actions will you take?
Our students face a mental health crisis
For HBCU leaders, employing holistic resources and non-traditional strategies can enhance mental health on campus so that young people of color thrive, achieving their personal, academic, and career goals. The period from adolescence to adulthood is a stressful time for young people. It is also the time when mental health concerns typically first appear.
In our radically polarized world, Black youth:
- Face additional mental health stressors, such as microaggressions, poverty, and racial profiling
- Experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, and psychological distress than white youth
- Are often reluctant to seek help due to stigma, cultural mistrust, and a lack of access to culturally responsive care
Today, our campuses can create a safe environment for our students to receive the care and support they need.
1. Build Capacity
Identify and build capacity of the “mental health front line,” the campus counseling center and staff. Reflect the diversity in student identities (e.g., LGBTQ staff, men of color) in counseling center staff. Focus on destigmatizing mental health.
- Increase mental health literacy on your campus. Provide training and workshops to help educate your campus about the signs of mental health distress, so everyone has the skills to intervene when they notice someone struggling with their mental health.
- Normalize conversations about mental health. Share the message across campus that the mental health and well-being of everyone from the president to the faculty/staff to the students is a priority.
- Recognize gender differences in help-seeking behavior that may require different and targeted strategies.
2. Share Resources
Inundate students, faculty, and staff with mental health resources available on and off campus. On-campus resources cannot always meet the clinical needs of students, so explore low-cost, off-campus options for students who may find some off-campus options cost prohibitive.
- Develop a variety of on-campus forums to increase mental health literacy, including podcasts, town halls, and wellness days.
- Train faculty to support students with mental health challenges using classroom policies, such as assignment flexibility or small group activities that promote connectedness.