Minority Students Not Seeking Mental Health Help

Posted By Eliana Osborn on January 20, 2016 at 11:21 am
Minority Students Not Seeking Mental Health Help

College campuses around the country are trying to keep up with the demands for mental health services.  Anxiety and depression lead the list of concerns for students from all backgrounds.  But some young people either aren’t aware of where to get help or aren’t willing to ask.

New research from the Jed Foundation and the Steve Fund finds that white and minority students have different first-year college experiences.  Students of color are less likely to say they feel well prepared, both academically and emotionally.  They are more likely to be disappointed by their college experience, feeling that it isn’t living up to their expectations.

Even more important are the ways non-white students are dealing with these feelings.  Set to Go chronicles the first-year findings from this and other surveys.  52% of African-American students and 49% of Hispanic students said everyone else seems to have things figured out, just not them.  That’s ten percentage points higher than how Caucasian students perceived things.  African-American students were significantly more interested in transferring during their freshmen year as well, indicating that their feelings of disconnect were more than transitory.

JED also reports “African-American students are more likely than Caucasian students to say they tend to keep their feelings about the difficulty of college to themselves (75% vs. 61%).”  Black students are less likely to have been diagnosed with mental health conditions or to have been treated for such concerns.

Earlier research has found that 50% of college freshman report feeling stressed most of the time.  The biggest source of that stress?  Money, in particular how to pay for the college experience.  More females than males are reporting significant anxiety during college, so much so that it gets in the way of their success.

Non-white students are more likely to be receiving financial aid, a situation where timing and money are often out of your hands.  That burden, in addition to concerns about if they belong at college, indicate a greater need for counseling and support.  Instead, the JED research would indicate that these students are not reaching out and getting help to handle their concerns.

What can colleges do to ensure minority students feel welcome on campus?  Inclusive advertising of mental health centers is a small step in the right direction.  The more all students feel comfortable talking about their challenges, the easier it is for other students to seek help.  Freshmen are already the most in danger of dropping out of college, in large part because of the same concerns minority students struggle with.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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