Capital U: Hire BIPOC Counselors Now

Capital U: Hire BIPOC Counselors Now

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Bree Chambers started this petition to Capital University Center for Health and Wellness

In emails sent to university students, staff and faculty on June 4 and June 11, some very nice words were said. Following the death of George Floyd, and the ensuing national outrage, we were told that Capital and its administrators sought to "develop clear strategy, deliberate focus, and sustained action" to "significantly advance diversity and inclusion across the university". Our interim president recognized the blatant truth that racism is a public health crisis. We were assured that the well-being of all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin or color, was of the utmost priority.

In the months following, however, it has been brought to our attention that the vast majority -- if not all -- of the individuals providing mental health services in our Center for Health and Wellness are white. The only BIPOC counselor was recently let go in circumstances that were abrupt, unclear and detrimental to her client base.

Medical mistrust is a leading concern in communities of color, and one that is rooted in a long legacy of misunderstanding, misdiagnosis, and even malpractice. Many marginalized communities greatly stigmatize the seeking of mental health treatment, and the cultivation of trust surrounding this ought to be approached with information, attention and diligence. The current mental health crisis that is sweeping our nation has already been proven to have a disproportionate effect on communities of color — for example, Black individuals are roughly 20% more likely than their white counterparts to present with PTSD and depression. These disparities are only amplified by the impacts of racial trauma.

A 2018 survey at Cambridge revealed that 79% of BIPOC students considering counseling believed they would benefit from seeing a BIPOC counselor. In times of exacerbated unrest, many students are seeking comfort, familiarity, treatment tailored to their unique needs and the ability to authentically process their circumstances in an environment that feels safe. It is not inconsequential; a tangible difference is made by representation in mental health, and student testimony will tell you this. Denying students the opportunity to seek care that best works for them directly contradicts that which we have been promised, and that which we are owed. Mental health is public health, and BIPOC students deserve an expansion of options in seeking mental health treatment. BIPOC students matter, and BIPOC counselors matter, too.

Until the University commits to recruiting counselors that reflect the full demographics of the student body, the nice words we heard in June are exactly that. Let this be an opportunity for your actions, your understanding and your character to speak louder.

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