African-American students are repeatedly exposed to systemic attacks on their core identity. Such events trigger mental health challenges for some and exacerbate existing mental health challenges for others. African-Americans have historically avoided mental wellness resources (MWRs) for numerous reasons. Presenters will discuss traditional barriers to helpseeking behaviors, while educating professionals on how to innovate existing MWRs into culturally relevant practices that involve cross campus collaboration to address mental wellness.
Much of the literature within the field of Higher Education has critiqued and examined ways to support African-American students academically, financially, and socially within campus spaces. However, there has been little research done on the topic of mental wellness among African-American students, which leads us to believe that institutions have placed mental wellness on the institutional backburner. Before institutions can commit to developing the whole student, there must be a conscious commitment to innovative approaches that address mental wellness through a culturally relevant lens. Cultural relevance, in this regard, considers causation, barriers, and applicability.
The African-American community has watched the media display what could be described as apathy for Black lives and livelihood. It is because of this that African-American students are then left to process, unpack, and navigate their existence, while trying to thrive in a predominantly White society. Witnessing these racially charged tragedies leaves students racially fatigued and mentally exhausted, triggering mental health challenges for many students and exacerbating existing mental health challenges for others.
Institutions need to rethink antiquated practices for addressing Black mental wellness. Conventional counseling centers, “traditional” counselors, and stock paper flyers with emergency contact numbers are not meeting African-American students where they are. Therefore, institutional leadership must work to interrogate the applicability of their actions rather than putting a bandaid on a bullet wound. This causes a shift from the deficit model that focuses on “what is wrong” to the strength’s based model that highlights and utilizes “what is right”.
The overall goal of this presentation is to shed light on the mental wellness challenges experienced by African-American students, and the gap that exists between effective practices and mental wellness resources that adequately address their challenges. When considering causes of mental wellness challenges within African-American students and barriers to resources, the strengths approach is the framework through which practices can be innovated to meet the needs of this population. As we navigate through this presentation, we will unpack conventional ideologies and barriers surrounding Black collegiate mental wellness while fostering civic discourse among peers that will reveal culturally adaptive approaches for this group of students.
By engaging in this session, participants will be able to:
- acknowledge pervasive stigmatization and reasons behind non-help seeking behaviors of Black/African American students;
- discuss effective and innovative practices that expand access to mental wellness resources for Black/African American students;
- identify institutional strengths, weaknesses, and gaps surrounding Black/African American student engagement with mental wellness resources; and
- formulate steps to improve cross-campus collaborations surrounding access to mental wellness resources for Black/African American students.