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Student Mental Wellness at Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Axcess Studios What Makes Us Stand Out

Student Housing of America, Inc. (SHA) exists to provide safe, affordable residential housing and resources for HBCU students, fostering academic excellence while supporting their physical and mental well-being. Over the past decade, social anxiety, depression, and generalized anxiety have increased among college students, with an increase in suicide among this group. Suicide is now one of the leading causes of death among young Black adults (ages 15-24 years). SHA believes prevention is crucial and is working to do its part.

Twenty percent of all black graduates attended HBCUs, causing SHA to focus its student housing efforts at these institutions, representing about 3% of the nation’s colleges and universities. SHA is committed to assisting HBCU students with mental health support to promote their academic achievement. College students experience higher mental health challenges than the general U.S. population. In an evaluation of undergraduate students at a Northeastern HBCU during the Covid-19 pandemic, 49% of students met the clinical threshold for depression, 39% met the clinical threshold for anxiety, and 52% met the threshold for depression and anxiety. This data shows that mental health challenges among HBCU students were higher than that of other college students over the same period.

Historically, black students have greater exposure to traumatic, financial, and social strain than other students, which links to mental health challenges. Professor Larry J. Walker discusses how HBCUs have a long history of supporting students through a range of struggles. Through the concept of “Othermothering” HBCUs help students cope and thrive. Walker suggests this concept fosters a sense of extended family. SHA agrees with the idea of “Othermothering”  which is why its mission is essential to HBCU students and their future success.

In keeping with the tradition of “Othermothering,” SHA believes students residing in its properties are not just residents—they are extended family. Through design efforts, SHA helps create a sense of community within residential housing. SHA fosters community by partnering with HBCUs to offer a system of support and seminars to promote students’ mental health and wellness along with safe housing.

SHA recognizes the impact the HBCU experience has on students’ lives and supports these institutions in promoting wellness and academic excellence. The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and Active Minds report outlines key strategies for HBCUs to enhance their mental health programs for students. These strategies may also inform other organizations providing services to HBCU students. The eight (8) strategies are briefly outlined below:

1.       Create systems level campus strategies: Establish positive mental health policies for the campus and classrooms (i.e., “Mental health days” with no coursework or classes),

2.       Build and leverage partnerships: Connect with local community organizations (i.e., churches and campus groups) to offer mental health services and programming; seek state/Federal resources to support mental health offerings,

3.       Increase access to mental health supports: Integrate mental health assessments into clinical and related wellness services; partner with local providers to offer multiple modalities for mental health counseling (i.e. telehealth, expanded service hours, crisis supports); recruit and retain counselors of color,

4.       Effectively promote campus mental health resources: Highlight campus mental health resources and stigma-free messaging using websites and social media; Ensure frequent, positive mental health communications exist from top-level campus leaders to the broader campus community,

5.       Center student voices: Support student groups advancing mental health-related or community building efforts; establish peer educator and mentor services (i.e., serve as resources,  model healthy behaviors); Develop a continuous process for capturing and assessing student feedback,

6.       Create a culture of caring between students and faculty/staff: Promote communication between incoming students and faculty/staff; generate opportunities for students and faculty/staff to engage in other than classroom settings,

7.       Educate campus community members: Inform the community about the importance of mental health and self-care; teach the campus community how to recognize signs of mental health challenges as well as how to render assistance; provide opportunities for students and faculty/staff to share experiences with mental health services/counseling, and

8.       Assess campus needs: Develop tools to assess mental health views in the campus community in order to connect persons to available resources.

The strategies outlined above underpin both mental health needs and outcomes. Recent studies illustrate both a need for mental health services for HBCU students and the protective nature of attending an HBCU on the long-term mental health of students. Mental health is a core program provided by SHA to promote overall wellness to aid HBCU students in excelling academically. SHA creates affordable, high-quality housing for students attending HBCUs and is committed to a holistic approach to resident students.

Student Housing of America, Inc. (SHA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Please consider donating to help maintain and expand efforts related to HBCU students’ wellness and academic success.

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