Mental Health and Wellness for Students of Color: Takeaways

Mental Health and Wellness for Students of Color: Takeaways


TARYN FINLEY: I do want to
wrap with a key takeaway from each of you on
what colleges can do or how colleges
can benefit from– or a takeaway or a
solution, rather, than you hope that
today’s viewers get from this conversation. We’ll start with David. DAVID RIVERA: Sure. So I talked about
narrative already. As a therapist, I rely
on narrative therapy and theoretical
principles, knowing that when we think about mental
health for people of color, there’s a certain narrative
that overly pathologizes people of color, invalidates
people of color, takes a universalistic
perspective, treating people of color
through a colorblind lens. And that just causes more harm. So my takeaway
and a challenge is that we need to change this
narrative of mental health for people of color
and for everyone by talking about it more
overtly, having it a part of– someone mentioned
having it on a syllabus, encouraging people to discuss
their mental health needs, their mental health stories. My idea of mental
health and healing is not the same as
anybody else– so taking a culturally
humble perspective, where I’m going to want
to first understand the perspective from the
person I’m working with. And so I encourage
everybody who’s either here or
watching this to have at least one conversation about
your mental health today, one conversation. That can have a lot of
power for you cathartically in terms of releasing
something, but it can be a great role
model for somebody else to possibly take that first
step to seek out support. TARYN FINLEY: Stephanie? STEPHANIE PINDER-AMAKER:
That’s really a great idea. One of the most effective
ways of reducing stigma is hearing directly from people,
like the lived experience of the young brother and the
young people who spoke earlier today. My takeaway is
specifically for students. And I want to speak
to any student who’s tuning in to this
panel, any student who might be experiencing a level
of distress that’s persisted or that’s so significant that
they’re having difficulty functioning, if they’re
feeling persistent feelings of hopelessness, thoughts
of hurting yourself, urges to attempt suicide. It’s important to know
that you may very well have a common mental illness. And it’s not your fault. These
illnesses are very common and they’re very treatable. And so I want to encourage you
to remember that you earned the right to matriculate
on that college campus within that college community,
wherever you are, and strongly encourage you not to let
anyone or anything get in the way of receiving
the proper support and potentially treatment
that you deserve. DAVID WILLIAMS: I
would add two things. One is I think we
need to understand mental health
comprehensively in the larger context of individuals’ lives. So we do need to provide
treatment and so on, but we need to think what we
do with the larger environment. How do we build job readiness
and service learning opportunities so that
individuals feel empowered and feel they have skills
to look to the future? And my second
challenge specifically for universities– in
this moment of US history, universities need to
exercise greater leadership in confronting some of
the myths and mythologies and the environment that’s
creating all of this hostility. In the last six months,
I have become a member, I don’t know why– I receive, every
three or four weeks, an email from a white
supremacist group. It’s a long diatribe. What is disturbing about it
is that it appears credible. They’re citing studies. They’re citing sources. They’re citing
newspaper articles. If you read it, it
looks completely reasonable and evidence-based. What are we doing as
academic institutions to confront this
diatribe that’s out there within our communities and
within our larger societies? JOHN SILVANUS WILSON:
And I would close with– I would speak to
institutions, as well, and institutional leadership,
and say that institutions are like individuals. That is, who we were is
still a part of who we are. And if most institutions
that we’re talking about here were born in a time of
segregation and racial hate and we were situated
that way, then we need to examine
ourselves right now and discover the degree
to which who we were is still part of who
we are and make sure that we are now
positioning everyone who comes to our campus to thrive.

Daniel Yohans

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