Mental Health Services hires multicultural specialist

The University of Connecticut’s Counseling and Mental Health Services (CMHS) department has hired a specialist that covers mental health issues relating to underprivileged minority groups.

Dr. Amanda Waters was hired as the first Multicultural Specialist at CMHS in August 2015, Counseling and Mental Health Services Director Elizabeth Cracco said. Waters has research interest in cultural humility and will collaborate with CMHS staff in order to widen the availability to support diverse students, Cracco said.

“There is robust literature related to the intersection of mental health and privilege ranging from the impact of racism on well-being to access to mental health care and stigma around help-seeking,” Cracco said. 

In the past CMHS has worked with cultural centers and has a desire to be more knowledgeable with issues in diversity and privilege, she said. The hiring of Dr. Waters is a step towards assessing the needs of diverse students by creating services and development among the CMHS staff, Cracco said.

“CMHS has historically grounded our work in a holistic biopsychosocial model, that considers students' social context as an important contributor to mental health,” she said. “In that sense, talking about things such as family systems, relationships, and larger social forces related to power and privilege are a hallmark of conversations we would have at CMHS.”

While CMHS numbers are reflective of the UConn population, research has shown that students of color may be less likely to seek treatment, Cracco said.

“Recently, the Jed Foundation, leaders in college mental health, along with the Jordon Porco Foundation conducted a national survey of first-year students,” she said. “[They] found that students of color were more likely than white students to keep feelings about the difficulty of college to themselves.”

The Jordan Porco Foundation is a mental health organization based in Hartford, Connecticut that was founded in 2011, according to the Jordan Porco Foundation website. CMHS has worked with this foundation for five years, Cracco said.

The survey results were released in Oct. 2015 and showed that 65 percent of the students surveyed preferred to keep their feelings to themselves, according to the Jed Foundation press release. The survey also showed that 75 percent of African-American students are more likely to keep their feelings to themselves compared to 61 percent of their white counterparts, according to the press release.

The survey results confirms the belief that one-size fits all mental health care will not sufficiently serve the needs of UConn students, Cracco said

“All the support and education we provide at CMHS must be culturally attuned,” she said. “There is an ongoing process of challenge and growth on the part of our professionals to work toward that goal.”

Annabelle Orlando is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at annabelle.orlando@uconn.edu.