Black students able to access mental health, community-building resources

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University Health Services and student-run organizations and projects have virtual mental health and community-building resources available to Black students.

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Black students can access a variety of mental health and community-building resources through University Health Services, or UHS, and student-run projects and organizations.

Offering virtual mental health services is important for students during the pandemic, said UHS spokesperson Tami Cate. Additionally, UHS publicly recognized the importance of offering mental health resources for Black students and opened up a resource page for them on its website, which can be found on its “Black Health Matters” webpage.

“As mental health clinicians, we understand that oppressive and harmful systems have a direct impact on mental well-being,” the UHS website states in its Black Lives Matter statement. “As a service, CAPS is committed to providing affirming and racial trauma-informed care for all of our students who have been directly or vicariously impacted by trauma.”

According to Cate, mental health providers in Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS, offer virtual mental health counseling appointments, “Let’s Talk” consultations and group counseling and workshops for Black students.

“Let’s Talk” drop-in consultations allow Black students to discuss their struggles with racism, microaggressions or isolation, among other challenges, with Black-identified counselors, according to the UHS website.

“Within CAPS, there are currently 4 permanent African American counselors and 2 postdoctoral fellows,” Cate said in an email. “Within the Health Services as a whole, we have 5 other African American counselors (1 in Social Services, 3 health coaches and 1 behavioral health provider).”

In addition, UHS offers group counseling through groups such as the Black Womxn’s Sister Circle, BIPOC Queer Womxn’s Support Circle, BIMOC Black Indigenous Men of Color Healing Circle and Heart Wisdom: BIPOC Meditation and Healing Community.

Campus alumnus Ibrahim Baldé co-founded the app Blackbook University to promote a sense of community among Black students through the centralization of information aimed toward Black students’ success on campus.

The Blackbook app, to be launched sometime in February or early March, allows student organizations, faculty and alumni to post relevant information pertaining to the Black community, such as scholarships or job opportunities, according to Baldé. The app also includes a community calendar to mitigate scheduling conflicts between student organizations, a personal calendar for Black students to organize their own events and user profiles for Black students to connect with each other.

“We hope to enrich the overarching Black experience that is beyond the academic setting,” Baldé said. “How do you empower people to become the best versions of themselves? I think, for a lot of Black people, it’s through peer to peer connection, mentorship, community engagement and it’s through giving back.”

Baldé added that Blackbook University is not the only student-driven resource with the goal of fostering community among Black students on campus. UC Berkeley has more than 30 Black-led student organizations and initiatives, including the African American Student Development Center, the Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center and the Black Student Union, according to Baldé.

UC Berkeley has a low proportion of Black students, even being deemed “one of the worst campuses for Black students” in California by a 2018 University of Southern California equity report, Baldé added. He believes resources for Black students, such as Blackbook University, have become even more crucial during the pandemic as people crave human connection “more than ever.”

“For a lot of Black students, last year wasn’t only dealing with COVID,” Baldé said. “With the Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, I think it’s sometimes unfair to impose this strict standard given the circumstances. I think it’s important for the education system to consider how identity plays a role in academic success.”

Contact Serene Chang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @_serenechang .