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Black Mental Health Matters

By Leondra Saintil
On November 5, 2016

Photo Courtesy of Noire City

Recently, rapper Kid Cudi publicly announced his check-in to rehab for depression which sparked the discussion of mental health issues in the African-American community.

According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African-Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. Only one-quarter of African Americans seek mental health care, compared to 40% of the Caucasian population.

This issue is one that affects college students as well.There are students amongst Florida A&M University’s campus that are battling some type of mental illness. Third-year children's psychology student, Pilar Chase, explains her experience with severe anxiety and how she’s coping with it.
 
I realized something was wrong because I had never really been as happy as other children. I didn't take the steps to get help until college”, Chase said. “I have gone to Sunshine Manor for counseling services  since April 2015. If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or suicidal, I would 100% recommend going. Each student is provided 12 sessions per semester.”
 

FAMU provides services for students to make sure that they are mentally stable and healthy. One of those services includes the Office of Counseling services for enrolled students which is funded through activities fees.

Director of FAMU’s office of counseling services, Anika Fields, Ph.D., gave insight on how her and the staff are planning to inform students regarding their mental health.
 

“I want to get around to every student on campus and talk to them about mental health services, what we offer, where we’re located, what we do and have them ask questions. I find that it would help if the students could put a face to the office of counseling services, that we’re ordinary people,” Fields said. It’s sad when you don’t know and need it.

According to the government of Western Australia Mental Health Commission, three out of four people with a mental illness reported that they have experienced stigma. In medicine Stigma is a visible sign or characteristic of a disease. When a person is labelled by their illness they are seen as part of a stereotyped group. Negative attitudes create prejudice which leads to negative actions and discrimination.
 
Researchers E.C. Ward and J.C. Wiltshire, conducted a study on African-American men and women's attitude toward mental illness, perceptions of stigma, and preferred coping behaviors. They discovered that there is a stigma that highly contributes to the dismissal of mental illnesses.
 

According to the study, African Americans hold beliefs related to stigma, psychological openness, and help-seeking, which in turn affects their coping behaviors. Generally speaking, the participants in this study were not very open to acknowledging psychological problems, but they were somewhat open to seek mental health services.

Fourth-year business administration student, Tiffani Brown, explained her thoughts on mental illness and the stigma surrounding it.
 

“I think there's a stigma around mental illness in our community,  it's such a dangerous stigma.  That makes it really difficult for people to  accept that they are ill and open up about being ill,” Brown said.

Students who are seeking help can find the office of counseling services temporarily located in the student support services (Trios).

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