Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Taking the Couch on the Road: Reaching Diverse Students with Critical Mental Health Services Requires Innovative, Culturally Competent Outreach

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Taking the Couch on the Road: Reaching Diverse Students with Critical Mental Health Services Requires Innovative, Culturally Competent Outreach

Article excerpt

A few weeks ago, a student of color who never sought professional help came to my walk-in support hours and confided that the pain she held in from a childhood trauma caused anxiety and affected her relationships. She did not feel comfortable going to the counseling center--seeking therapy was not common in her community. She didn't trust people--many systems had already failed her. I was the first person she told. She later said it was liberating to talk to someone and not repress her suffering and shame anymore.

Sadly, this student's story is not unusual. According to a supplemental report from the U.S. Surgeon General, "striking disparities in mental health care are found for racial and ethnic minorities." The report finds that minorities do not access mental health services in proportion to their numbers or they receive a poorer quality of mental health care. In many cultures, there is a stigma against seeking mental health services stemming from a history of negative experiences with service providers, little awareness of services, cultural barriers that impede access, limited minority providers or different cultural norms regarding personal disclosure.

At northern New Jersey's Montclair State University, where underrepresented minorities make up 35 percent of undergraduate enrollment, minority students face many challenges. Students balance home, work and school with limited time and resources for self-care. For students who are already marginalized because of their race, ethnicity, class, religion, sexual orientation or other difference, stressors are further exacerbated by discrimination and microaggressions. Such stressful lives place these students at greater risk of experiencing mental health crises, particularly if they don't receive the on-campus support they need. Access to culturally competent mental health services, therefore, is critical to retention.

Given our students' diverse backgrounds, there are also diverse perspectives on what it means to seek help. As the coordinator of Outreach and Community Intervention, my mission is to reach those students who do not come to the Counseling and Psychological Studies Center. Joining students in their cultural worlds is critical to increasing access and providing multiculturally competent clinical services on a diverse university campus. At Montclair State, several nontraditional clinical outreach programs have been developed to provide students a variety of safe spaces for managing their mental health needs. The key to the growth and success of these programs has been persistence in promoting programs to minority students; enlisting professors, administration and staff as program stakeholders; running programs in central locations on campus; and co-leading programs with other departments that carry less stigma. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.