The Mental Health Needs of Minority College Students

The Mental Health Needs of Minority College Students

Robert F. Meenan, MD, MPH, MBA
President, Christie Campus Health

In recognition of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, Christie Campus Health confirms its commitment to addressing the serious mental health issues faced by college students from minority populations.

Like so many other things in our society, good mental health is inequitably distributed. Surveys have repeatedly shown that mental health problems are more common in minority populations.  This mental health inequity has been greatly exacerbated during the past year as the losses and dislocations of the COVID-19 pandemic have fallen much more harshly on blacks, indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC).

Among college students, those from minority populations have more factors that are associated with poor mental health. These “social determinants” of mental health include poverty, childhood neglect, discrimination, housing insecurity, food insecurity, and loneliness. In concert with the daily toll of racial discrimination, these factors promote anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.

BIPOC students are also less likely to seek help for their mental health issues. This reticence to seek counseling and other forms of mental health care stems from various factors including concerns about cost, social stigma, religious traditions, and general mistrust of the health care system. During the COVID-19 pandemic, additional factors like separation from campus resources, lack of private spaces, and limited access to technology exacerbated the situation.

Christie Campus Health (CCH) is committed to addressing the mental health needs of BIPOC college students. CCH currently serves a wide variety of colleges and universities that in turn enroll a diverse population of students. Over 52% of the students we currently serve report their race as other than white, and 30% of undergraduate students served by CCH are receiving Pell grants.

We have included features in our CONNECT@College platform of services that are specifically relevant to the access, quality, and cost factors that are most relevant to minority students. These features include:

  • All CCH services are provided at no cost to the student. There are no co-pays or any out-of-pocket costs. This removes the financial barrier to accessing services for all students, and especially for diverse and underserved populations.  This is an important design feature given the growing recognition of income and wealth inequities and their importance as barriers to care.
  • All our 24/7 support line clinicians receive formal training that focus heavily on cultural competence. Their cultural competency training program modules includes topics such as: Valuing diversity, Managing the dynamics of cultural differences, Adapting strategies/tools to meet the needs of our diverse callers, and Incorporating participant preferred choices into service delivery and goal setting.
  • The CCH platform includes a number of services that students can employ on their own to address mental health issues. This facilitates access for minority students who may be concerned about stigma or be generally distrustful of the health care system. Our platform includes a medication program and on-line cognitive behavioral therapy modules, and it will soon include an AI chat feature.
  • CCH’s large network of licensed clinicians gives students access to a diverse set of licensed counselors. With over 50,000 clinicians in the US and 80,000 international behavioral health clinicians in over 200 countries, we give BIPOC students access to a broad and diverse group of providers regardless of their physical location: on-campus, off-campus, domestic or international. Providers have the option of self-identifying their ethnicity at the time of their enrollment in the clinical network, and many providers have identified as African American, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Asian and White Non-Hispanic. All our network clinicians receive training in appropriate styles and methods of communication, use of community resources, and sensitivity to cultural, economic, and psychosocial issues.

By design, CCH’s CONNECT@College platform is designed to better address the mental health needs of minority students by reducing financial, geographic and cultural barriers to care and by offering a greater range of services and a broader diversity of clinicians.

During Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, Christie Campus Health commits to continuing its efforts to effectively address the mental health needs of minority college students.

About Christie Campus Health

At Christie Campus Health, we are dedicated to improving the behavioral health and wellbeing of college students by helping colleges and universities expand the way they reach and support students in need.  Our solution, CONNECT@College, offers a number of integrated components that provide a broad range of self-care and professional treatment options for students with varying behavioral health needs.

About Dr. Robert Meenan

Dr. Meenan served as Dean at Boston University School of Public Health from 1992 to 2014 and retired from BU in 2016 as Professor of Health Policy and Management in the School of Public Health and Professor of Medicine in the School of Medicine. He holds a BA in government from Harvard College, an MD from Boston University School of Medicine, an MPH in Health Administration and Planning from the University of California Berkeley, and an MBA in Health Care Administration from Boston University School of Management.

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