HBCUs could play role in improving awareness of mental health

Sad woman crying next to her therapist who is comforting her
Some experts says HBCUs could play a role in normalizing mental health services in the African-American community.

By Chanetris Chance

When it comes to mental health, it is no secret African-Americans are not utilizing resources to their full potential. In fact, African-Americans are least likely to take advantage of mental health services. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, only about 8.5% of people who seek mental health assistance are Black.

The Black community used to be surrounded by stereotypes that made seeking mental health a taboo. Now the numbers are slowly increasing, but they are still low.

Making mental health a more discussed topic on HBCU campuses could be the missing link in the improvement of mental health in the African-American community. Active campaigns to break down social stigmas, fight the idea of shame and increase engagement is essential.

Dougla-Khan Stancil is a mental health professional that works at Florida A&M University’s counseling center. He has been working at FAMU for 10 years and says he has seen a sharp increase in both seeking and utilization of mental health services among the African-American population.

“There’s a stigma about seeking services and using services. Most people want to be seen as doing well, feeling well and not be associated with a perceived dysfunction,” said Stancil. “Having events in which metal health education is the topic is important in reversing this trend.”

If students are taught the normalcies of mental health, they can teach their families, friends and their future children.

For example, if a student were educated that African Americans have a higher probability of being diagnosed with schizophrenia than other races as discussed in the International Journal of Epidemiology, they wouldn’t be so ashamed when they witnessed someone having an episode on the side of the street or the internet. The thought process would go from “Oh my gosh they’re crazy,” to “Oh my gosh, they need help.”

Kimberly Doscher is a college graduate with a degree in psychology. “There are times I can hear people I’m talking to describing symptoms of mental illnesses unknowingly,” Doscher noted. “I know everyone isn’t going to focus on psychology in school, but I feel it would be extremely helpful if symptoms of some mental illness were as recognizable as the common cold or the flu.”

HBCUs are at a disadvantage due to lack of funding and other resources that many other colleges and universities take for granted.

For example, there is a grant covered in the Morrill Act of 1890 that is given to public institutions that the state must match. It’s called one-to-one matching.

The Association of Public and Land Grants reported that “between 2010- 2012, 61 percent of 1890 land-grant HBCUs did not receive 100 percent of the one to-one-matching funds from their respective states for extension or research funding.” That means those universities combined did not receive $57 million in funding.

Findings from “Managing Student Mental Health at Historically Black Colleges and Universities” showed that a strong factor in the presence of mental health on HBCU campuses is the budget.

The funding between colleges and universities either stayed the same or decreased over the years, while the demand for mental health assistance increased all over the United States.

Due to so many colleges and universities not having proper resources and staff to educate and help with mental health, it is vital that more people get involved. Awareness about this issue is important, and the education of one individual could lead to the education of thousands.

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