National statistics suggest that individuals within BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) communities are less likely to connect with counseling services relative to their euro-american counterparts, which is often related to a number of historical and current barriers.
There are a number of barriers that traditionally have prevented individuals from BIPOC communities from accessing mental health resources. Currently and traditionally, few therapists of color exist in the mental health fields and often, understandably, students are reluctant to seek services from a setting that does not have individuals who look like them. Often students will also report being confined by time, as other responsibilities in life take priority, leaving their mental health low on the list. This tends to be particularly true for students who have financial concerns and/or are trying to balance employment and/or family roles with their student responsibilities. In addition, there still remains a stigma attached to seeking counseling in many cultures and communities, as students report worrying that others will view them as “weak” or “crazy”. Even more so, often it is not culturally appropriate to “air the family business”, especially with a professional. Emotional pain can consequently be normalized and individuals of color may potentially be forced to function (at or above the standards of their European/White counterparts) with increased amounts of distress.
Many of the common concerns present include, but are not restricted to,
- Navigating and advocating for oneself as a person of color at a PWI (predominantly white institution)
- Coping with racism, oppression, and xenophobia
- Internalized pressure to succeed
- Identity development
- Integrating racial/cultural identity with other intersecting identities (e.g. religion, gender identity, sexual identity, class)
- Generational and oppression-based trauma
Traditionally, BIPOC individuals have often been supported by spiritual values and/or kinship relationships, to name a few. CAPS honors traditional support systems and recognizes the importance that it has carried in many of our students’ lives. Definitions of “mental health” and “therapy” differ across cultures and respectfully so. At CAPS we are aware that these varied perceptions are real and as such we strive to create an inviting and inclusive atmosphere that welcomes these perspectives and experiences, as well as works alongside of them, rather than dismisses them, in order to provide support in a culturally sensitive way. In addition to creating an inclusive atmosphere in the center, CAPS continuously works to engage in outreach opportunities that more intentionally create connections with different communities.
Current services and collaborative outreach efforts that specifically target our students of color include:
- NAACP – North Carolina Chapter
- Latin American Coalition in Charlotte
- 100 Black Men of Greater Charlotte
- National Coalition of 100 Black Women
- My Brother’s Keeper
- Sanctuary in the City
- Freedom Center for Social Justice
- Racial and Gender Microaggressions on a Predominantly White Campus
- Being Black in a Predominantly White University