Feel-Good Friday: Mental Health Mondays from the AACC and PSC

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Beginning in July, the University of Connecticut’s African American Cultural Center partnered with African American graduate student therapists at UConn’s Psychological Services Clinic (PSC) to begin the ‘Mental Health Monday’ (MHM) initiative, according to a Division of Student Affairs announcement. 

Informational flyer for Mental Health Monday, a collaboration program between the African- American Cultural Center and The Psychological Sciences Clinic at UConn. Flyer retrieved via AACC instagram.

Those who signed up for the MHM program receive weekly messages with mental health information from the graduate student therapists, according to the announcement. 

“Upcoming topics will include: strategies to help de-stress, mindfulness and meditation, signs of depression and anxiety, preparing for school-related stress, when and how to seek professional psychological help and much more,” the announcement said. 

Jamilah George, a clinical psychology Ph.D. student, created the MHM initiative in July in honor of Minority Mental Health Month, with the support of the Division Head Stephanie Milan, who has a doctorate in clinical and quantitative psychology. George cited “the recent racist events happening on campus and the outcry from students for additional mental health resources and support,” as the driving force behind the creation of the program. . 

The collaborators behind the MHM initiative felt that this program was important given that UConn’s Student Health and Wellness services cannot accommodate all the students seeking mental health services. Therefore, it would highlight PSC as another resource for those seeking help, George said. 

“Additionally, the presence of COVID-19 and the evacuation of our UConn community has made it even harder to feel connected. Not all students know that the Psychological Services Clinic (PSC) is an additional resource with student therapists who are available to offer services as well,” George said in an email. “So it seemed appropriate to make our presence known. Specifically, we wanted the Black UConn community to know that Black student therapists exist on campus and that we encourage the psychological wellness of our community members.” 

“Specifically, we wanted the Black UConn community to know that Black student therapists exist on campus and that we encourage the psychological wellness of our community members.” 

George noted the team of six Black graduate student therapists from the PSC, including herself, that have collaborated on and sustained the MHM initiative: Destiny Printz Pereira, Nana Margo, Asia Perkins, Jaime Blackmon and Linda Oshin. George further explained how the MHM messages seek to address a variety of mental-health issues each week, including race-based trauma. The program also offers solutions and coping strategies for the mental health issues they raise. 

Black Lives Matter Protest
Photo by Alexandra Wimley from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“The MHM initiative is designed to offer brief psychological education to students, faculty and staff, regarding prevalent issues facing the Black community. So far, we’ve addressed racism and police brutality, racialized or race-based trauma in light of the recent killing of Black people (i.e. Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, etc.), increases in anxiety, mindfulness meditation, the “Strong Black Woman” stereotype and strategies for coping with stress and irritability,” George said. “We also offer solutions to the mental health issues we raise and suggest mantras each week to encourage focus and centering on the message.” 

“We also offer solutions to the mental health issues we raise and suggest mantras each week to encourage focus and centering on the message.”

George said that the program has received a lot of positive feedback from both students and faculty members. 

President Tom Katsouleas meeting with members of the African-American Cultural Center following a series of racial incidents on campus. Photo retrieved via the official AACC instagram.

“One faculty member conveyed how impressed and appreciative she is for the work we’re doing and offered herself as a resource to further support the work. A few students have asked how they can get involved in the initiative and one even inquired about details for seeking mental health services,” George said. “These correspondences let us know that our work is effective and has fueled us to keep pressing forward.” 

Finally, George ended with the hope that this program will help community members become more comfortable discussing these topics and seeking mental health treatment. 

“We realize that discussing mental health issues is stigmatized in the Black community, but we hope that MHM can help students recognize that they are not alone in their concerns and that we are here for them,” George said. “As MHM is not meant to take the place of therapy, we hope that this will be a bridge to help community members become more comfortable with these topics and seek more formalized mental health treatment as needed.” 

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