UNCF and The Steve Fund Announce New Partnership Focused on Addressing HBCU Student Mental Health

WASHINGTON, DC (DECEMBER 7, 2021) — Students at the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and predominantly Black institutions (PBIs) will have greater access to mental health supports and resources as the result of a new partnership between the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and The Steve Fund, both organizations announced today. 

The ongoing pandemic and heightened racial tensions have intensified the urgency of increasing the reach and impact of mental health programming at HBCUs and PBIs. Through its partnership with The Steve Fund, UNCF intends to launch its newly established mental health initiative with customized strategies, content, programs, resources, and events all designed to build knowledge and establish a community of action around mental health and emotional well-being of students, faculty, and staff on HBCU and PBI campuses. 

The partnership kicked off with a survey to announce the new initiative, which was distributed to HBCU students, faculty, and staff to gauge the state of mental health on HBCU campuses. The organization received responses from 342 students and 419 faculty and staff representing 47 HBCUs. Among the findings: 

  • Students, faculty, and staff all agree the top three mental health concerns for college students are: stress, anxiety, and depression. 
  • More than 65% of students shared that in a mental health crisis, they are most likely to speak to friends or family members. 
  • While 83% of students believe their campuses are addressing mental health and well-being, 45% of students surveyed said they would not speak to anyone if they were in a mental health crisis. 
  • An overwhelming majority of students, faculty, and staff shared that they would like to keep informed on resources about mental health and well-being, yet 25% faculty/staff shared there is no training available about student mental health and wellness. 
  • 72% of students are aware of their options for mental health counseling through their college/university, but only 52% feel comfortable visiting the university counseling center when a mental health issue arises. 

Nearly 70% of students expressed a desire to be informed about resources and events regarding emotional well-being. Students reported that their campuses were addressing their mental health needs moderately well to extremely well. Most faculty and staff respondents

welcome increased support for and awareness of mental health resources for the entire campus community. Additionally, when asked whether or not they believed there were barriers preventing students from receiving adequate mental health care, faculty and staff were evenly split with 51% believing barriers do not exist. 

“The Steve Fund is working to position UNCF students to achieve optimal mental health by equipping them with the skills, tools, and knowledge they need to thrive as young adults, scholars, and leaders,” says Dr. Annelle Primm, senior medical director at The Steve Fund. “Through our collaboration with the UNCF, the Steve Fund expands its important partnership with higher education to foster the emotional well-being of students of color through productive dialogue, effective policies, and successful promotion of access to potent, culturally salient resources. It is imperative that the Steve Fund supports HBCUs in their critical mission. Our partnership in the mental health initiative is a strategic investment which will enhance cultivation of student potential and success.” 

“As America continues to battle the pandemic, this devastating disease has revealed just how much work we must do to provide adequate support to students, faculty, and staff on HBCU campuses. We already know that the students we serve and their educators must respond to generational trauma, racism, and disinvestment to thrive—each of these challenges takes a toll on student and faculty mental health. Our schools and institutions need support to develop new and sustainable ways to provide care, mentorship, and compassion to its students, staff, and community members,” says Dr. Michael Lomax, president, and CEO, UNCF. “Through this partnership with the Steve Fund, we will begin to develop programs and resources that will help aid HBCUs and others in an effort to create an environment conducive to mental health and the emotional well-being of students.” 

The objectives of the new partnership are to: 

  • Reduce stigma and promote knowledge, dialogue, awareness and around the mental health needs of HBCU and PBI students 
  • Engage HBCU campus leaders and mobilize a commitment to prioritize mental health support systems and services on their campuses 
  • Provide curated mental health recommendations to help HBCU and PBI administrators support their students 
  • Support HBCU and PBI institutions in their vitally important mission by assisting them as they promote student potential and success 
  • Provide the necessary tools, resources, and supports HBCU and PBI students need to remain or become mentally well so they can advance their personal goals to matriculate through college and become the future leaders of tomorrow 

The partnership has established the following strategic activities to accomplish its goals:

  • The distribution of a survey to HBCU students to gauge their existing needs and perceptions of mental health on campus that will launch the partnership and inform HBCU communities. 
  • An inaugural communications strategy fueled by data, best practice, and topical thought-leadership to engage HBCU students, leaders, administrators and faculty, and elevate the urgency of mental health and emotional well-being for HBCU students, particularly during this period of heightened crisis and commensurately heightened mental health risks. 
  • A conference will be convened in January 2022 for HBCU students including educational mental health workshops designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills to maintain their mental health and emotional well-being as they navigate the educational journey and life transitions. 
  • A first-ever mental health track for HBCU leaders at a conference in the summer hosted by UNCF’s Institute for Capacity Building that will provide insights and evidence-based tools leaders can use to help campus communities achieve and maintain mental health and emotional well-being in these unprecedented times. 

 

About The Steve Fund 

The Steve Fund is the nation’s leading organization focused on promoting the mental health and emotional well-being of young people of color. The Steve Fund partners with colleges and universities, non-profit organizations, mental health experts, employers, and young people of color and their families to deliver knowledge and skill-building programs, services, technical assistance, and tools for young people of color and those who support and educate them.

About UNCF 

UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community, and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, supports and strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically Black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding nearly 20% of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized trademark, ‟A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”®

Learn more at UNCF.org or for continuous updates and news, follow UNCF on Twitter at @UNCF.