Graphic by Corrina Riess.
A NOTES FROM THE EDITORS: This letter to the editor has been fact-checked by numerous members of The Butler Collegian. The opinions contained in this letter are those of the author. The Butler Collegian is committed to sharing diverse viewpoints from across the university and is committed to upholding values of free speech, but does not endorse or promote opinions contained within any letter to the editor.
In my first-year seminar course, being the only Black male student in my class, we spoke about racism and discrimination and how it affects one’s mental health. I personally felt that we should have gone over it a bit longer, yet I was already aware of how difficult it is for people of color to seek help mentally. I want to spread awareness on topics that are not discussed enough within the Butler student body. I want to voice my thoughts with you all not only as a Black student, but as a Black male student.
First and foremost, to all of my fellow students, know that you have the right to have your voice and viewpoint heard. No matter who you are or what background you may come from, this is what Butler strives to do, and we should continue to make sure that this is shown in action. I want to let you all know that I am pushing myself to come out of my comfort zone and share this untold conversation.
Before I get into it, I want to share something with you all. Being a male and a person of color, the loneliness that I feel can be overwhelming at times. Yes, diversity is good, but how are we being included? Can we truly appreciate the unique experiences that a person of color may have? Yes, there are resources for everyone, but what about in our everyday lives as students? Just having a casual, meaningful conversation with someone who has an open mind and ear can significantly move us in the right direction. You can have your typical fraternities and parties, but those aren’t always effective in building meaningful friendships for everyone.
Now, when it comes down to racism and discrimination surrounding mental health, cultural barriers are one of many factors that make it difficult for people of color to seek help. Mental health issues also come with a stigma and are often seen as weaknesses or simply “white people problems.” To make matters worse, there’s also a general shortage of mental health providers and even fewer therapists from minority backgrounds, not just at Butler, but nationally according to the American Psychological Association.
If you would like to read more on what APA discusses about this, please visit this link!
Again, this creates another barrier for people of color who might prefer to talk to a therapist that they can identify with.
I mention this because as a student who is currently a first-year chair in Black Student Union, I continued to learn and realize that we as people of color need more representation in therapy to open up to those who share similar backgrounds with us.
This past February, I was able to attend a Minority Health Spotlight event sponsored by BSU. The event was in partnership with Daria Williams of Butler’s Counseling and Consultation Services, who gave us very important information on mental health within the Black Community.
This is just an example of how I was able to become more knowledgeable and aware on the reality of racism and discrimination surrounding mental health.
It just gives us a sense of comfort knowing that this person who looks like me can perhaps understand some of my unique experiences. Even if a therapist or counselor is not a person of color, just acknowledging the unique experiences that a minority might have related to their background or ethnicity helps in many ways.
We have definitely come a long way when it comes to racism and discrimination surrounding mental health, but there is definitely more work to be done at Butler. When you consider how much people of color have suffered at the hands of racism throughout our country, we have generations of men and women who have witnessed segregation who can tell you how it has affected them mentally. I want you to understand that in a world where we are working together to eliminate racism and discrimination, what reason is there to go against it? Why would someone be stuck in a mindset of “I am superior to you?”
Yes, there is still a lack of awareness concerning white privilege and racism, and it manifests in legal, economic and social ways. It still has not gone away.
I hope one day the university can acknowledge and better understand the experiences of people of color with intention and empathy. Not just verbally, but with action. This will lead us to a better environment that builds upon the diverse experience and inclusion of all students.
Franklin Akers III