The murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the prevalence of anti-Asian hate crimes amid the pandemic, the death of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The list goes on. A lot has happened in the past 18 months. Many students, especially students of color, have experienced mental health issues while dealing with virtual learning. As most of the students return to campus in the fall, administrators from higher education institutions and mental health experts gathered virtually on Thursday to discuss how best to help students navigate the course. next semester.
“We can take this moment to consciously choose how to move forward in an innovative and equitable way that is particularly relevant to supporting our BIPOC students,” said Dr. Carlota Ocampo, president at Trinity Washington University and moderator of the webinar. titled “Promoting Race Equity in Student Mental Health: Considerations and Strategies for Returning to In-Person Teaching.
Even before the pandemic, schools struggled to hire students of color.
Dr. Cirleen DeBlaere, associate professor of counseling psychology at Georgia State University, noted that only about 28% of students of color think their campus is inclusive according to a 2017 survey. In her own study, DeBlaere also found that over 70% of students of color had suffered a micro-assault on campus and that would only be magnified by the pandemic.
“All these incidences of micro-aggressions can accumulate to [and] contributing to racial trauma, ”she said, adding that hearing about other people’s experiences or seeing them on social media sites could have a negative impact on student mental health.
“All of these have mental health implications in terms of depression, anxiety, lowered self-esteem, binge drinking, and symptoms of PTSD,” DeBlaere said.
The trauma experienced by students of color can affect them not only mentally but also physically. Dr. Stephen Quaye, associate professor of educational studies at Ohio State University, studied the phenomenon called racial combat fatigue, the exhaustion that people of color experience from repeated racism.
“[People] who suffer from racial fatigue in combat often also have headaches, grinding of teeth, shortness of breath, ”Quaye said. “We might also have trouble sleeping, then emotionally and behaviorally, loss of appetite, increased alcohol and drug use as a coping mechanism. And then poor academic and professional performance.
To better accommodate students who have experienced racial trauma in the past year, Ocampo suggested devoting more resources to faculty development.
“When students walk into a classroom at any institution, what they see is their faculty, and for them that faculty is the institution,” Ocampo said.
She noted that some white teachers might avoid certain subjects for fear of making mistakes. Universities and colleges, she added, must help all faculty create a safe and welcoming campus climate for students.
University of Michigan professor Dr. William Lopez noted that even small changes to the curriculum can help traumatized students feel more seen and included. Since the start of the pandemic, he has added a note to his program.
“[The note] help students understand that I understand that their life is very difficult at the moment. And so my expectations are not what they were before, ”he said. “We are not in a normal period. So we shouldn’t be doing normal things. “
Lopez said the faculty must validate the feelings of the students.
“‘I hear you.’ “I’m sorry you went through this.” ‘What do you need?’ These are the means to answer it. ”He added.