Dating back to last spring, the Office of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs has been collaborating with Counseling and Psychological Services to deal with social justice through the lens of mental health. Their efforts appear through constant support of students, as well as various programs, run both jointly and as individual offices.
Pejay Lucky, director of SDMA, implemented this dualistic approach upon the eruption of this year’s racial justice movement.
“My first goal, beyond educating and creating programs, is just student support,” Lucky said. “Really, mental health was the big thing I was concerned about with our students being away and thinking about how we continue to support them as a University.”
The support for students can be seen through direct outreach to students and organized programming in the form of faculty and staff training. Ongoing initiatives with this goal include the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Book Club for faculty members, as well as the Breakfast Club, a training group that teaches faculty how to better support students from underrepresented backgrounds.
SDMA’s efforts thus coincide with those of Counseling and Psychological Services. Staff clinician Clinesha Johnson explains that the entire staff’s support of students manifests during a particularly taxing time for mental health.
“We just kind of want people to know we support them one way or another,” she remarked.
That support presents itself in multiple formats. The Survivor Group for victims of sexual assault, the Grief Group for those mourning loved ones and the Nursing Support Group for student healthcare workers are just some of the many university-led groups catered towards specific student needs. However, Johnson wants to make it known that while they are well-equipped to handle severe illnesses and situations, C&PS offers a lot more.
“I just want students to start to think about mental health a little bit differently,” Johnson said.
She wants mental health visits to be de-stigmatized to the point that they seem like physicals, where you check-in with your doctor regularly, not just under extreme conditions.
“You don’t need to be chronically ill or depressed,” Johnson said. “You could be perfectly fine.”
In a world where COVID-19 has completely changed everyday life and exacerbated the attention towards racial injustice, Johnson stresses the importance for check-ins now more than ever.
The missions of these two offices converge through programs such as “Pandemic, Protests and the Past,” an event scheduled for Oct. 8. This talk will replicate many of the points shared in prior discussions, such as the April event entitled “Coping with Diversity in Ethnically-Diverse Students.” This Zoom discussion addressed the hardships of race, both at a predominately white institution as well as in society at large. While dealing with many of the same issues, the Oct. 8 event will further incorporate how recent social injustices, protests and months dealing with a pandemic have added to these preexisting issues.
A recurring message from both sides of this collaborative is inclusiveness. Just as Johnson would love to see an increase in all students utilizing C&PS services, she echoed this sentiment about student representation at SDMA program collaborations.
“You don’t have to be a person of color to go to these events,” she affirmed.
“Pandemic, Protests and the Past” will take place via Zoom at 1:00 p.m. on Oct. 8.