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Addressing the Mental Health Ailments Facing Black College Students

By Nealy, Michelle J. | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, November 29, 2007 | Go to article overview

Addressing the Mental Health Ailments Facing Black College Students


Nealy, Michelle J., Diverse Issues in Higher Education


BALTIMORE

If the walls of Cicely Evans' office could talk, they would tell of the mental health ailments facing Black college students, including domestic violence, depression, anxiety, stress, unresolved issues of homosexuality and thoughts of suicide.

"The hardest part is getting students through the door," said Evans, a licensed professional counselor at Southern University at Baton Rouge. "Many are afraid of the stigma attached to mental health treatment. Students do not want to be labeled as crazy or weak."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate for Black Americans of all ages was 5.25 per 100,000, nearly half of the overall U.S rate of 10.75 per 100,000 between 2000 and 2004. Black males from ages 20 to 24 had the highest rate of suicide in the Black population, averaging 18.18 per 100,000.

Counselors, therapists, researchers and educators from across the country who attended Morgan State University's Fourth Annual Counseling Center Conference sought to address how to better serve the mental health needs of students attending historically Black colleges and universities.

While many Blacks remain skeptical of psychological treatment, opting for a more spiritual approach to mental wellness, studies show that they are more likely to experience a mental disorder than Whites and less likely to seek treatment.

"Students at HBCUs may be at more risk for suicides and other mental illnesses, because we are not talking about them. Black campuses haven't experienced a large-scale catastrophe like the one at Virginia Tech, but these issues are still prevalent," said Tracy Reed, a registered licensed professional counselor intern.

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