10 Strategies for Colleges to Support Minority Students’ Mental Health

The Jed Foundation and The Steve Fund

Health disparities occurring in the broader society also impact students of color. Students of color at American colleges and universities are almost twice as likely not to seek care when they feel depressed or anxious compared to white students. In comparison to white students, are significantly less likely to describe their campus as inclusive (28% to 45%) and more likely to indicate that they often feel isolated on campus (46% to 30%). These statistics indicate a need for a more tailored approach to protecting the mental health of students of color.

To help colleges and universities support and enhance the mental health of students of color, The Jed Foundation (JED) and The Steve Fund undertook a comprehensive effort to answer 5 questions:

  1. What is the current state of knowledge regarding mental health in students of color?
  2. What are top-level programs doing to address the mental health needs of students of color?
  3. How effective are these programs?
  4. Where are the knowledge gaps?
  5. What recommendations can be offered to college and university leaders to help them better support the emotional well-being and mental health of students of color? 

The answers to those questions yielded The Equity in Mental Health Framework (EMH Framework), released in late 2017. This post provides both background and an update.

The EMH Framework provides colleges and universities with a set of ten actionable recommendations and key implementation strategies to help strengthen their activities and programs to address mental health disparities facing students of color. The recommendations, meant to support efforts by higher education leaders, administrators, and providers of student services, incorporate structural changes in policy and practice that can reduce the stigma associated with student mental health challenges, increase proactive responses from colleges and universities, and provide more opportunities for students of color to thrive. 

This effort supports achievement of three complementary goals for young people of color: their mental health, college completion, and life chances. The project also intends to stimulate discussion and new research while helping more schools prioritize these efforts in order to ensure mental health equity for college students. 

The EMH Framework’s top-level recommendations follow. For the implementation strategies and additional information, visit equityinmentalhealth.org.

  1. Identify and promote the mental health and well-being of students of color as a campus-wide priority
  2. Engage students to provide guidance and feedback on matters of student mental health and emotional well- being
  3. Actively recruit, train and retain a diverse and culturally competent faculty and professional staff
  4. Create opportunities to engage around national and international issues/events
  5. Create dedicated roles to support well-being and success of students of color
  6. Support and promote accessible, safe communication with campus administration and an effective response system
  7. Offer a range of supportive programs and services in varied formats
  8. Help students learn about programs and services by advertising and promoting through multiple channels
  9. Identify and utilize culturally relevant and promising programs and practices, and collect data on effectiveness
  10. Participate in resource and information sharing (within and between schools).

What do you think?

What do you think should be done to better serve the mental health needs of students of color on college campuses?

In what ways have disparities in mental health care affected you, your family, or others you know?


About the Steve Fund

The Steve Fund (TSF) is the nation’s only organization focused on supporting the mental health and emotional well-being of young people of color.  The Steve Fund works with colleges and universities, non-profits, researchers, mental health experts, families, and young people to promote programs and strategies that build understanding and assistance for the mental and emotional health of the nation’s young people of color. With multicultural mental health experts, it delivers on-campus and on-site programs and services for colleges and non-profits, and through tech partnerships it provides direct services to young people of color. 

About The Jed Foundation (JED)

JED is a national nonprofit that exists to protect emotional health and prevent suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults. JED partners with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention programming and systems. In addition, JED equips teens and young adults with the skills and support to grow into healthy, thriving adults. Finally, JED encourages community awareness, understanding, and action for young adult mental health.

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