African Americans & Mental Health
What happens at the intersection of mental health and one’s experience as a member of the Black community? While the experience of being Black in America varies tremendously, there are shared cultural factors that play a role in helping define mental health and supporting well-being, resiliency and healing.
Part of this shared cultural experience — family connections, values, expression through spirituality or music, reliance on community and religious networks — are enriching and can be great sources of strength and support.
However, another part of this shared experience is facing racism, discrimination and inequity that can significantly affect a person’s mental health. Being treated or perceived as “less than” because of the color of your skin can be stressful and even traumatizing. Additionally, members of the Black community face structural challenges accessing the care and treatment they need.
According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black adults in the U.S. are more likely than white adults to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress, such as sadness, hopelessness and feeling like everything is an effort. Black adults living below the poverty line are more than twice as likely to report serious psychological distress than those with more financial security.
Despite the needs, only 1 in 3 Black adults who need mental health care receive it. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Mental Health Facts for African Americans guide, they are also:
- Less likely to receive guideline-consistent care
- Less frequently included in research
- More likely to use emergency rooms or primary care (rather than mental health specialists)
CAPS Can Help
At CAPS we honor the colorful tapestry of UNL that is intertwined with the multiple intersecting identities, which includes African Americans. We welcome you into our space where we affirm, value and respect individuals from the African American Culture. We are committed to helping our students navigate the development of their racial identity, address experiences of discrimination or bias, and access support and resources.
We strive to cultivate relationships with campus partners to facilitate connections and nurture a supportive campus environment. CAPS offers the following services to students:
- Individual counseling
- Group counseling
- Drop-in spaces to provide healing and connection at challenging times.
- Consultation with our campus partners addressing injustices and bias that our African American students are facing.
- Let's Talk drop-in consultations – Want an informal consultation with a Black counselor from CAPS? Sign up for a time to meet with John Goldrich, a counselor at CAPS, by Zoom video.
Did you know that CAPS can help with these?
African American students may find it helpful to talk with a CAPS provider to explore the intersections between their racial identities and race-related stress. Race-related stress can arise from singular or repeated instances of overt/covert racism, discrimination, or prejudice and reactions may include:
- Helplessness and/or hopelessness
Recognize When You Need Help
Often students overlook their emotional distress. Some might go as far as to say that it is too difficult for them to work on their struggles while trying to perform as a student. We encourage all students at UNL to recognize when their struggle is getting in their way and to seek academic help and support. One of the most telling differences between successful and unsuccessful students is the ability to identify warning signs of academic troubles and a willingness to ask for help.
WARNING SIGNS that you need help:
- Decreased interest and motivation for a class or classes.
- Sleeping through or otherwise failing to attend a class or classes.
- Scores below class average on quizzes and assignments.
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs.
- Increased use of distractions. Internet, TV, video games, partying, or hanging out.
- A sense of confusion or falling behind during lectures and discussions.
- Decreased self-esteem or loss of faith in one’s ability and intellect.
How to Help Yourself
Establish a Positive African Centered Identity
As you contemplate your own racial identity, as well as that of those that you encounter, finding a framework that fits you may prove beneficial.
- Get involved.
- Learn about identity development.
- Find a mentor.
- Attend events on campus which are targeted for persons of color.
- Engage in critical dialogues.
- Consider the ways in which your family and friends have shaped your views about being African American.
- Stay abreast and look critically at media images, including television, music and print.
- Acknowledge both overt and covert racism on campus.
Manage Negative Emotions and Unproductive Behaviors
From time to time the pressures of college may become overwhelming. A loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, financial problems, balancing work/school or other stressful life circumstances can sometimes result in increased stress and/or depression. For many students, it may be difficult to acknowledge these feelings and ask for help. Often such feelings are dealt with by using alcohol or drugs, throwing one's self into schoolwork or overeating. Knowing where to get counseling services can help.
Develop Mature Interpersonal Relationships
Nurturing relationships requires that you devote time and energy to getting to know those who are new to you (e.g., roommates, hall mates, professors, advisor, etc.). It also involves maintaining existing connections with those who have supported you in the past (e.g., nuclear and extended family, friends from home, spiritual leaders, etc.).
Create a Campus Resource Network
When you tie yourself into any of the following network of individuals they will help you personalize your college experience and turn offices into individuals who are committed to your success at college.
Resources for Black Students
- Digital self-care for Black individuals coping with trauma" (article)
- Tips For Self-Care: When police brutality has you questioning humanity and social media is enough (article)
- Emotionally restorative self-care for people of color (video)
- The Road to Resilience (article)
- 101 ways to take care of yourself when the world feels overwhelming (article)
- BEAM: Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (articles, videos, trainings, resources)
- Healing in Action: A toolkit for Black lives (article)
- Live Another Day (addiction support/treatment)
- Black Lives Matter guided meditation (audio)