Let’s be honest, black mental health is not the same as white mental health. African-Americans have been traumatized by years of slavery and oppression that still serve to affect us today. Not only do many African-Americans face mental health issues, but we also face racial discrimination as a result of hundreds of years of enslavement. We don’t talk about mental health enough in the black community, but why is that?
There is a stigma surrounding mental illness in the black community and we must address this as a problem in order for there to be a possibility of mental healing and recovery. Adult Black/African Americans are 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than adult whites” and primarily white institutions (PWIs) often ignore this as a problem.
Even Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU), where I go to school, fails to present us with a racially diverse counselor staff. My school does not have a black counselor. I spoke with the Counseling Services Director at SFA, Jill Milem, and Assistant Director of Multicultural Affairs at SFA and both women recognize the importance of having a black counselor on campus. However, within the school’s budget another counselor cannot be added to administration. So, I beg the question, what can be done at my university in order for black students to feel represented when it comes to talking about issues that affect their mental health? One solution is to hold a focus group targeting specific issues in the black community. While we are still not receiving the representation we yearn for, a focus group dedicated to discussing issues surrounding the black community is a step in the right direction.
After meeting with Dr. Griselda Flores and Jill Milem, I brought the idea of focus groups up to the Health Committee in the NAACP. Working through the Health Committee is beneficial as it was formed to “promote, protect and maintain the health of African-Americans.” It is our goal to bring the idea of focus groups into fruition in this next upcoming school year. Black students on campus should have the right to discuss mental health issues and problems with someone who can truly relate and understand their struggles as African-Americans at a PWI. Hopefully with this strategy, we can achieve that goal starting here are SFA.
Photos by: Ashlyn Eustace