Psychologists explore student mental health

The psychology department is conducting a multi-year study to locate reasons why some students at Historical Black Colleges & Universities suffer from certain mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

Jermaine Robertson, an assistant professor of psychology, heads the study, titled “Mental Health Screening.”

The department is studying a segment of the black community – students ages 18-30. Robertson said they are interested in “what extent the illnesses occur and what factors prevent students from developing certain mental disorders under similar stressful circumstances.”

The National Alliance and the Faculty Research Pilot program are the funding sources for the study, which began at Howard University, and students may earn up to $60 for participating, Robertson said.

One of the main goals of the study is to understand what makes certain students prone to develop mental disorders.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, about one in five adults, nearly 22 percent of the United States’ population, suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.

Robertson said a big problem in the diagnosis of mental problems in the black community is the inability of some to eliminate stigmas associated with mental health disorders.

Huberta Jackson-Lowman, chair of the psychology department and associate professor of psychology, agrees.

“We should take steps to address them (mental health issues) before they become more serious,” Jackson-Lowman said.

Studies from the National Health Information Center support Jackson-Lowman and Robertson’s reasoning.

The NHIC proposes that although 22 percent of the population suffers from mental disorders, only about half of those affected seek help.

NHIC members offer various reasons for these findings. Mental health stigmas can become a barrier preventing ill people and their families from seeking help.

Robertson stressed that “African-Americans have a high unmet need of mental health services.”

Robertson said there are about 20-30 students currently participating in the study at Florida A&M University, but he hopes that in years to come those numbers will increase into the thousands.

Quiana Hart, 18, a junior accounting student from Wichita Falls, Texas, said that she decided to participate in the study because she “sees how it can help students.”

“I don’t have any mental disorders, but they said that they needed a control group so that’s why I’m here,” Hart said.

Other students chose to participate for different reasons.

A 19-year-old sophomore psychology student from Miami, who did not want be identified, said she wanted to participate in the survey because “I want to see how the research process goes. I want to get a feel for how studies are conducted.”

She also mentioned that she has felt anxiety in the past and found the study helpful and wanted to “be assessed.”

Students on FAMU’s campus can rely on the Counseling and Assessment Center for mental health help.

Yolanda Bogan, interim director of CAC, said the goal of the center is to “promote mental wellness through effective prevention and early intervention programs.”

The National Alliance funds the Mental Health Screening Study for Research on schizophrenia and depression as well as the Faculty Research Pilot program.

If students find after they have taken the study that they are in need of help, Robertson said he will “lead them in the right direction to get the help that they need,” and the center is one such option.

Any student interested in volunteering may contact or call 850-412-5303.

Contact Lynette Brown at