How to support minority students' mental health needs

Cultural differences make the demographic harder to reach

Minority students are less likely to seek and receive mental health support than their white peers are, but a few programs are working to change that, Shirley Wang reports for the Wall Street Journal.

Even though the first Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health formally identified disparities in 1999, the under-treatment of ethnic minorities has remained a problem. Barriers stemming from stigma, mistrust of the health care system, language differences, racism, and cost all contribute to the issue, according to a supplemental report.

Study: Mental health care will help hundreds graduate

Research suggests that minority patients may prefer counseling to pharmaceutical treatments, but lack of availability of counseling resources combined with retention problems once patients start treatment present obstacles.

Colleges, already struggling to support increasing demand for mental health support and challenges identifying which students are in need of help, may need to approach minority students in a different way.

Related story: Male students ignore campus mental health programs. Here's how colleges are reinventing outreach.

A new website and service launching next month aims to provide alternative forms of support. Run by the Steve Fund, will act as an easy way for students of color experiencing mental health or emotional issues to receive virtual therapy and support, no matter where they attend college.

Approximately 1,500 volunteers have trained in listening skills and learned interventions that can be used with different populations, "not to stigmatize or separate or segregate," but rather "to have the capacity to communicate with a diversity of populations," says Annelle Primm, a senior medical adviser and psychiatrist for the Steve Fund (Wang, Wall Street Journal, 1/11).

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