B-CU mental health resources upgraded; Studies show increased risk of suicides among black youth
By Amber B. Courtney
Suicide, once thought of as just an illness largely affecting the white population, is on the rise in among African Americans and especially black youth.
A study published in September, which just happens to be national Suicide Awareness Month, showed a 4.9 percent increase in the number of suicides among blacks in the 15-17-year-old group and a 6.6 percent increase among black girls. The authors of the study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found that more than 1,800 Black children died by suicide between 2003 and 2017.
Meanwhile, another study published earlier this year found that the suicide rate of Black males ages 15 to 24 years old rose by 47 percent between 2013 and 2019 - and by 59 percent for Black females of the same age - but it decreased in white youth, according to a recent New York Times article.
Likewise, black college students have also shown to be at an elevated risk for suicide. To that end, officials here on campus are making an all-out effort to inform students of the resources here to help them. B-CU has sent out emails containing Public Service Announcements reminding students of the counseling services available on campus and have even begun implementing Student Wellness Days where all classes are cancelled.
George Ramsey, a licensed mental health counselor, said mental health issues in the Black community have been on the rise within the last few years.
"You can see that we are on the brink of a mental breakdown as a nation," Ramsey said. "Never in my lifetime have I seen the need for mental health treatment so prepensely."
Black students at predominantly white institutions shoulder an even tougher burden-living in a society where they worry about being marginalized, according to one study published by researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
"We have documented alarming occurrences of anxiety, stress, depression and thoughts of suicide," said Ebony McGee, Vanderbilt's assistant professor of diversity and urban development and co-author of the paper. "Weathering the cumulative effects of living in a society characterized by white dominance and privilege produces a kind of physical and mental wear-and-tear that contributes to a host of psychological and physical ailments."
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, not only are (non-white) people in America less likely to have access to mental health services, but when they do receive care, it is often lower quality than the care their white peers receive."
As such, mental health resources at HBCUs are even more critical in helping provide students with the quality of care that they need and are less likely to get from other sources.
One of the major steps undertaken by B-CU to address students' mental health was to implement Student Wellness Days.
Senior Vice-President and Provost William Berry, proposed the idea for the campus. "Mindful that our students, faculty and staff needed some down time to pause, rest, renew and reinvigorate themselves, we decided to provide long weekend mini-breaks," Berry said, adding that the concept is not new. In fact, he said, B-CU was inspired by other universities who created the concept.
The idea behind Wellness Day is that all classes are cancelled, and no assignments are given out in an attempt to inspire relaxation within the students and staff.
"Wellness Days are about all of us doing exactly whatever we choose or do not choose to do -- so long as it's relaxing, refreshing, and renewing," he said. "We should use Wellness Days to renew and recharge, and not rundown ourselves."
Ramsey, meanwhile, said while officials have done a lot to aid in supporting the campus Counseling Center, there is still room for improvement. "One thing that they have really improved on is making sure that we have a fully-staffed counseling center," he said. "There is always a professional here or on call. However, we would greatly benefit from having a budget. The counselors are being paid a salary, but we don't have any money to do things like awareness campaigns, bringing other mental health professionals, and going to conferences to learn the latest research on college students. We don't have the funds to do any of that, but many other universities do. We're not there yet, but our students deserve it."
For more information visit B-CU's website here to learn more about the counseling center and get the contact information of the counselors. You can also text 741741 to speak with a Crisis Center via text or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. If the situation is an emergency, please call 911.