Meeting the mental health needs of Black students – News – Illinois State – Illinois State University News

Alexis Pandelios October 22, 2020 Student Affairs Student Counseling Services

flowers with building in background

It could be said that African-Americans exist in two worlds. In one world, there are the themes of strength, community, and pride. The other world, however, offers oppression, suffering, and invisibility.

As described by an African-American student in a recent article on race and mental health, “being Black means being strong, resilient, able to endure struggle and oppression, but still smiling…it means balancing being proud of my heritage while understanding that such feelings are met with strong opposition from those who choose to not see the beauty and value of my race.”

With this double-edged sword of identity duality also comes substantial health-related implications–which suggest that the promotion of mental health care for African-Americans is a matter of considerable urgency. With the goal of supporting students of color, ISU’s Student Counseling Services team is determined to address the specific needs of Black students.

Many Black individuals are subjected to several life stressors including racism, violence, and poverty. Research has demonstrated the connection between these stressors and several mental health concerns such as substance abuse, depression, low self-esteem, and lower levels of life satisfaction. However, although research related to the specific mental health needs of African-Americans are growing, there is also established research that identifies barriers that may limit or prevent African Americans from accessing such health services. Offering culturally competent care, understanding of power and privilege and its impact on the counseling relationship, and trust building are just a few issues that require immediate attention.

In the attempt to support students of color, ISU’s Student Counseling Services Center strides to provide culturally competent care to its minority students.  Further, Student Counseling Services offers programs focused on cultural diversity and inclusion, such as:

  • Voices of Discovery
  • Student of Color Process Group
  • Multicultural Outreach Team—comprised of SCS staff members, this team focuses on building relationships with offices, departments, and student groups as well as providing campus programs focused on diversity and inclusion at ISU.

Much work is still needed to create an inclusive mental health environment that emboldens and encourages minority status individuals. However, our center is committed to expanding that inclusivity by helping students of all backgrounds. For more information on our services, please visit the Counseling Services website.

Visit the Steve Fund for resources and further information.