First Black Mental Health Awareness Week provides space to heal and bond
This week in February marks Black Student Association’s (BSA) first Black Mental Health Awareness Week.
Events began Sunday with a potluck dinner and collaborative worship service followed by daily sessions to learn ways to cope with stressors or recognize the emotional weight students carry around with them from common stress of university students and the strain of microaggressions, stereotypes or racial incidences.
Junior psychology major Sianne Alexis has attended all events thus far and felt that they were great ways to strengthen ties with other students and check in with yourself.
Alexis noted that the awareness week aimed toward Black students is significant. As a psychology major discussing mental health is in her comfort zone, but there is often shame associated with discussing your personal struggles within the Black community.
“I think that mental health in the Black community is something that really doesn’t (connect) with us,” Alexis said. “In certain spaces if you’re Black and you bring up a mental health issue it’s like ‘You’re just being a baby… get through it, our ancestors have had worse.’”
Moreover, Alexis shared that at an African Students Association meeting she learned addressing mental health is taboo in many African student’s home countries.
“(African students have said) it’s just something that’s not talked about at home and if it is it’s just ‘you’re crazy’… it’s not thought of as a real health concern,” Alexis said.
On a larger level, February is Black History Month. Organizations around campus seeking to support African American and Black students planned events to both educate non-Black communities and honor the history of Black people at Xavier and in the U.S.
According to Hawa Gai, President of Ladies with an Emphasis on Achievement and Distinction, Black History Month is a time to acknowledge the contributions and achievements of prominent black figures.
“Black History Month is a time where we educate the people outside of the Black community, in which we share the legendary stories of our people and most importantly inform the people outside of the Black community on how we will continue to combat the underrepresentation and misinterpretations of African-Americans,” Gai said.
Beyond the achievements and contributions of Black people, faith and race relations will be a large focus of the activities taking place over the next month.
“There is a very big disparity between all ethnic groups and the White culture that we have here at Xavier. It’s easy to see if you just take the time to look at it,” first-year Abdul Ade said.
“I have not had any racially based experiences,” first-year Philosophy, Politics and the Public student Robert Young said. “However, I do think that this is an issue.”
He goes on to state that admitting more minority students at Xavier would be a way of solving these infrequent issues.
Similarly, Gai reflected on her experience as a Black student at Xavier.
“When being at a PWI (primarily white institution), there are plenty of challenges that people face at Xavier. Particularly, African-Americans face challenges such as racism, macroaggressions, stereotypes, etc. in which we always will continue to fight for and hope for these issues to be settled in the future,” she said.
A full calendar of events for Black Mental Health Awareness Week and Black History Month are available through the CDI or on Instagram.