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Student organizations discuss mental health experiences in communities of color


Student organizations representing diverse communities of color came together at the end of last month to discuss their experiences with mental health both within their own community, as well as those shared in many communities.

Isabel Lam, Chair of Advocacy for Asian Students Alliance, said it’s not very often that cultural organizations on campus hold an event together.

“Personally, I absolutely loved it,” said Lam, a sophomore political science and economics student. “And for the event to be a conversation about mental health and how many of the same mental health themes stem from our childhood. We just never had the time or opportunity to really express ourselves how similar our experiences have been and chatting with people in the group and a few events. “

Several cultural organizations, including the Asian student alliance, Muslim Students Association, Black Action Society, Multiracial student association, Organization of African students and Pan-Caribbean Alliance – co-hosted an event on October 27 titled “Mental Health Conversations Across Communities of Color”. The event at the William Pitt Union began with representatives from each group presenting mental health issues unique to their community, before moving on to a group discussion.

BAS and 17 other black student organizations published a series of requests at the University in June 2020, covering topics such as amplifying the voice of black students, increasing the number of black students and professors, curriculum changes, additional training for employees and reforms from Pitt Police. One of those requests was to increase the number of colored counselors at the University Counseling Center. Pitt Student Affairs Division spear a Action plan against racism, diversity and inclusion in July 2020, which included plans to increase UCC’s clinical capacity to align with the percentage of black students on campus by hiring additional black clinicians.

Zainab Akhtar, a junior psychology student and MSA vice president, said she learned from each group’s presentation that the stigma surrounding mental health is similar in many different communities of color.

” We are talking about [our backgrounds] and how it affected us and we realize how similar all of our experiences in high school were, ”Akhtar said. “It opened my eyes because we don’t offer the same routes, but we have had very similar experiences.

Akhtar said MSA explained how a large percentage of the Muslim community is made up of first generation immigrants and that the conversation around mental health in many Muslim households is overshadowed by the sacrifices made by their parents to come to America. . Akhtar said she learned that it was a similar experience in many different communities – that many parents will ignore their child’s mental health issues and instead focus on the struggles they have personally. had to overcome.

Lam, who is also the child of immigrant parents, said she does not realize how the mental health issues within the Asian community are so similar to those in other communities of color. Lam also said she was particularly moved by MUSA’s presentation on the intersection of cultural identity and mental health. Lam said it was something on her mind, and she found it interesting.

According to Lam, MUSA discussed how communities with multiple cultural identities deal with mental health issues and issues of being part of multiple communities. Lam said the presentation had informed her of the importance of highlighting mental health issues in communities of color and multiracial communities, and in particular how mental health stigma can come from over a community.

“These mental health issues could also be linked to your own cultural identity issues,” Lam said. “I hadn’t fully realized how difficult these conversations can be when you have a mixed identity and you have to face that facet of cultural identity and then also deal with the mental health that comes with these two communities. . “

After each group presented the mental health issues experienced by their community, participants discussed three questions at their respective tables. Selam Gillett, executive secretary of BAS, said each of the questions that followed the presentations became more specific about the intersectionality of mental health and race.

“The first round really kind of talked about how mental health stigma has affected the way we take care of our own mental health and how our ethnicity and cultural identity have shaped our perception of health. mental, Gillett, a sophomore psychology and sociology student, said.And we talked a little bit about the diversity in the lack of diversity in our own areas where we grew up, and how mental health was a supporter of that, and then we slowly took it a little bit deeper. “

Gillett said the event created a space to have a conversation about mental health issues not only within one community, but in several other communities of color.

“It was rather refreshing to understand that we are not alone as different communities of color,” said Gillett. “I know the black community really has its own recognition of sanity and what’s missing in the conversation when it comes to the black community, but to be in a space where you can kind of connect on that same. level of life experience. And I think it was really nice to see not only the connection between our own community, but other diverse communities. “

Gillett said one of his main lessons from the event was that mental health resources are essential on campus, especially for people of color. She said these groups are often overlooked when discussing mental health issues and when trying to find resources.

“I want everyone to understand that mental health should be something that is accessible to all students,” said Gillett. “And especially communities of color because they have often been overlooked when it comes to mental health.”

Akhtar said the benefit of having these conversations is that future generations may not have to deal with the same issues of racism, mental health stigma and the intersection of the two.

“If we fix it, it will not only hopefully be better for future generations,” Akhtar said. “But it’s also going to allow us to look inward and see these issues for ourselves and be able to work on them first.”