Within college culture's progression, mental health has become a pressing issue. Dealing with the increasing expectations in and out of the classroom, coping strategies used before are now futile. As a Black student, it seems as though those expectations are, at times, higher. Joe Morton portraying Eli Pope in ABC’s Scandal says to Olivia (Kerry Washington), “You have to be...twice as good as them to get half of what they have.” With this in mind, I feel as though people ignore the unique experience that comes with being a Black person in America and a college student.
Howard does emphasize our use of on-campus counselors, but that’s the only option I could remember offered at our several freshman orientations. I feel like they can and should do more to open up the conversation about their students’ mental health specifically as Black college students. The same goes for other HBCUs nation-wide and even for Black students at PWIs. As much discourse that goes on in the classroom about racial tensions in our communities, it’s easy to forget that we can be personally affected by the tragic events that we’re constantly subjected to. Dealing with the pressures of being away from home, and often our support system, when we may need them the most seems like it could be psychologically taxing.
Tailoring self- care practices to Black students including talking to loved ones, colleagues, and even professors about current events to understand the social relevance of situations as well as how our university can play a key role in those situations. We should also emphasize strategies to get your mind away from traumatic events. My English professor mentioned that our entire experience at Howard should not be contingent on our blackness. While many, if not all of the people I've met at Howard thus far take great pride in their decision to come here to be around more Black people, we all have to remember that our experiences are much more complex than that. More universal self-care tactics include taking mental health days for rest and personal time, and truly investing in habits that make you happy, rather than simply not terrible. Figure out what works for you because, in all honesty, all the articles in the world on mental health can be trivial if you don't take time to figure out what works for you.
I've realized just in the past week or so that with a busy schedule, you have to find balance between getting your work done and staying sane. That may mean skipping a scheduled nap during my break to catch up on assignments or even putting off reading ahead to catch up on sleep so I'm not tired the next day. That means trying not to skip meals and eating healthy so that I'm energized and focused on what tasks I have to complete that day, and being flexible enough to make time to talk to friends and family. However, an interesting (and very important) point that many people bring up in conversations about self- care is that many people often can't just drop their responsibilities for a mental break if need be. Looking at college students specifically, it can result in a bad grade or the loss of a job or internship. With that being said, it goes back to the expectation that you are absolutely going to be able to deliver 100% of the time. Contrary to popular belief that is almost impossible. Holding yourself to that standard is great, but unrealistic. Keep in mind that this isn't synonymous with giving a half ass effort. It simply means giving your absolute best and understanding that if you fail, you have the power to get back up and keep moving.
We have to reject the idea that as being a Black person in America, we have little to nothing to be happy about; and as college students, that we have to constantly push ourselves past our limits without taking proper time to care for ourselves. In both roles, the idea that we have to keep our problems to ourselves and uphold whatever facade we were taught for the past 18 years is damaging. Most of us are probably dealing with the same issues and being open to discussing and coming up with productive and feasible solutions is better than staying silent.
Another link you should check out:
7 ways to Practice Self- Care in College