Navigating student mental health challenges and opportunities at HBCUs

MHA Admin

Fri, 02/16/2024 – 15:50

by Chayil Bullock-Mariscal

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) stand as beacons of empowerment and academic excellence within the African American community. Beyond academics, these institutions cultivate a feeling of inclusion, cultural pride, and support from a community of individuals that not only resemble you, but sincerely want to see each student succeed. Like any institution, HBCUs face unique challenges when it comes to supporting student mental health, but they are providing innovative approaches to address these issues.

The historical stigma surrounding mental health within the African American community is one of the leading challenges. Seeking help for mental health is frequently viewed as a sign of weakness, preventing students from seeking the support they need and leading to unrecognized and untreated mental health diagnoses, potentially impacting an individual’s day-to-day routine, academic and work performances, and overall well-being. Compared to larger, predominantly white institutions, HBCUs often have limited resources or funding to provide comprehensive mental health services. Budget constraints may limit the number of on-campus counseling services, mental health professionals, or programs. This lack of resources can make it hard for students who deal with other financial and personal responsibilities to access timely, affordable, and culturally effective care. In addition, the intersectionality of race, gender, and socioeconomic status adds to the mental health experiences of students at HBCUs, causing higher rates of anxiety, depression, and other challenges.

Don’t be fooled, though. Despite these challenges, HBCUs offer opportunities for innovative approaches to supporting student mental health. Leveraging the strong sense of community and cultural pride that is fostered in these institutions can provide peer-to-peer support. By addressing unique challenges faced by students, creating safe spaces for open dialogue about mental health, promoting awareness, and fostering acceptance, HBCUs can continue their legacy of breaking down barriers and nurturing the growth of young people of color.

HBCUs encourage student-led initiatives and collaborations with faculty and administration, further strengthening mental health support within these environments. These student-led initiatives, such as mental health awareness campaigns, support groups, and wellness workshops, empower individuals to become agents of change within their communities and cultivate self-advocacy for well-being.

But HBCUs can go even further by prioritizing the recruitment of diverse mental health professionals who understand the unique cultural experiences of African American students. Through the lens of a student, seeing individuals who resemble them – their backgrounds and identities – and are passionate about not only their well-being but their aspirations creates trust, breaks stigma, and increases the desire to access mental health services.By acknowledging and addressing cultural stigmas, expanding access to resources, and fostering a culture of support and empowerment, HBCUs will continue to uphold their legacy as beacons of hope and opportunity for generations to come. HBCUs serve as catalysts for positive change within the African American community while embracing their heritage and creating paths toward healing, resilience, and liberation in the pursuit of mental wellness. As these institutions continue to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing needs of their student populations, prioritizing mental health must remain a focus.

Chayil Bullock-Mariscal (she/her) is a member of the 2023-2024 Mental Health America Young Leaders Council.


The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will house a “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center, that will provide case management, mental health community advocacy, and oversight from the M.I. Mother’s Keeper mental health advocates. 
The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will offer patrons access to immediate coverage by general surgeons as well as coverage by the specialties of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care.
Our goal is to help people in the best way possible in an effort to preserve and to save more lives in the Nation’s Capital and beyond.

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Code Red
Gunshot Victim
Life Threatening Wounds
Physical Assault Victim
Severely Injured Auto Accident Victim
Burn Victim
Choking & Breathing Obstructions
and more…


Child Sex Assault Victim
Domestic Violence Victim
Drug Overdose
Rape/Sex Crime Victim
Suicide Watch
Trafficking Victim
Nervous Breakdown
and more…

Mental Health

At Capital City Emergency Trauma & Wellness Center patrons with mental health emergencies that include life threatening situations in which an individual is imminently threatening harm to self or others, severely disoriented or out of touch with reality, has a severe inability to function or is otherwise distraught and out of control, will have access to quality and psychiatric emergency services and referrals.

Physical Health

Whether your life threatening medical emergency involves excessive or uncontrollable bleeding, head injury. difficulty with breathing, severe pain, heart attack, vision impairments, stroke, physically collapsing, or seizure related, rest assured that our professionals will properly assess and evaluate the level of response that will be most needed to help provide stabilized care solutions and minimize complications as well as reduce early mortality.

Holistic Healthcare

We offer healthcare solutions that will support the whole person which includes their physical, psychological, emotional, social, & spiritual wellbeing. Research supports that because your mental state can affect your overall health we support and offer the inclusion of complimentary and alternative medicine(CAM) practitioners and naturopathic doctor recommendations and referrals as a part of our Outreach Community Resource Center’s care regimen and support.


Emergency care can typically result in traumatic injuries for which rehabilitation becomes an essential component of care in trying to achieve the best long-term outcomes for the patient. In addition to speeding up recovery times and helping to prevent further complications, rehabilitative care also helps to support a patient’s self-managed recovery once discharged from our facility. Our Outreach Community Resource Center works closely with our trauma center’s discharge department to assure that patrons requiring these services are linked with qualified professionals who will be accountable to the standard of care required to help the patron be successful in their recovery.

Social Services

Our “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center intends to promote “expansive” beneficial community enriching services, programs, case management, & linkage to “approved” partner resources and supports in all of the following intended areas and more:

Social Services

  • Clothing
  • Food Pantry
  • Housing/Shelter
  • I.D. Credentials
  • Senior Wellness Check
  • Toiletries
  • Transportation
  • Etc.

Extended Family Services

  • Child Care
  • Credit Counseling
  • Family Court Services
  • Legal Aide

Career Training

  • Apprenticeship programs
  • Computer/Graphics Training
  • Culinary Program  
  • GED Courses
  • Hospitality Training
  • Job Etiquette & Grooming
  • Resume’ Prep
  • Sales Training
  • Software/Technology workshops
  • Small Business Training

Return Citizen
Program Partner
(Bridging the Gap)

  • Case Management
  • Temporary Boarding/Housing
  • Transitional Program Registration

Prevention/Intervention Outreach,
Workshops, & Programs

  • After-school Behavioral Health Program
  • Civic Engagement / Volunteer Sign-up
  • Fatherhood Rites of Passage
  • Gun Violence Town Hall Forum
  • Life Coaching & Coping Strategies
  • Marriage Counseling Workshops
  • Medicare Informational Workshops
  • Mentorship Training
  • Parental Classes
  • Support Groups
  • Town Hall Discussions
  • Violence De-Escalation Training
  • Voter Registration

Nutritional Outreach

  • Cooking Demonstrations
  • Dietary Programs
  • Exercise Classes
  • Recipe Sharing Workshops
  • Meal Prep

Community Outreach

The Healthy DC & Me Leadership Coalition is partnering with the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health advocacy organization to provide outreach services on the community level as an aid in reducing the existent health inequities that many District citizens are facing as a direct result of the presence of debilitating social determinants and the lack of culturally appropriate care choices and realities for community members residing in marginalized and lower-income communities.

It is the vision and intentions of the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health Advocates organization to help improve the quality of living for citizens living in our Nation’s Capital and beyond by overseeing the delicate linkage to services and by maintaining higher standards of care accountability for deserving citizens of the Nation’s Capital.

For more information or to enroll as one of our service providers, please email us at: