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Why we Need More Culturally Competent Mental Health Support on Campus

Trigger Warning: Mentions of anxiety

Navigating college is not easy. We struggle to keep up with school assignments, attend extracurricular activities, and/or work while also dealing with financial aid, taking care of family members, and more. There is no doubt that the mental health of college students is deteriorating considering the amount of stress it takes to juggle all of the responsibilities. In New York City, 49 percent of CUNY students reported an increased need for mental health support during the pandemic. When students struggle with their mental health without support, their academic performance suffers — making students more vulnerable to leaving school without their degree.

Throughout college, I experienced immense stress and anxiety from juggling all of my responsibilities and I did not know that my mental health was deteriorating. I had thought this was normal for a college student and didn’t question it. It was not until I attended a mental health workshop with HCAP, Hunter College’s Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions Program, to understand that I was not in the right mindset and I needed to seek support. I was able to learn about the model minority myth and how my identity as an Asian American impacted my experiences as a college student. Unfortunately, not all students are able to get this level of culturally competent mental health support. Programs like HCAP have limited outreach and cannot ensure all students receive this support. We need more culturally competent workshops and a diverse team of mental health providers at CUNY and SUNY campuses to ensure students have the support to continue and finish their degree.

Now more than ever, we need elected officials to invest in mental health services. We urge them to support the New Deal for CUNY, invest in mental health counseling to ensure a ratio of at least 1,000 students to 1 counselor at CUNY and SUNY schools, and ensure a diverse team of counselors. An investment in mental health services is an investment for our future.

Sharlene Daba-ay is a member of Young Invincibles-New York’s 2022 Spring Young Advocates Program.