University should go ‘all in’ on mental health


Andy Cotton

Kendal Manns

Kendal Manns, Editor-in-Chief

As the 2022-23 school year comes to a close, there is a lot to reflect on, especially when it comes to Alabama State University. After a tough school year, I believe the university needs to do a much better job at making its students’ mental health a priority.
According to a March 29 article by the National Education Association, “The majority of college students (more than 60%) meet the criteria for at least one mental health problem—a nearly 50% increase since 2013.” The article also goes on to declare there is a mental health crisis on college campuses. With so many students dealing with mental health issues, there has to be more of an emphasis on these issues.
I want to preface this editorial by saying that university has improved from where it was in years previous. The Office of Health Services held multiple “Hour of Joy” events throughout the year that provided students an hour of yoga and meditation and opportunities to be educated on mental wellness. The biggest example of Alabama State University making strides for mental health is the installation of the “She Care” wellness pods courtesy of a partnership with Kate Spade New York and The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation. The pods, which sit behind Bessie Benson Hall, aim to reach Black women on the campuses of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
While these are great examples of the university taking the mental health of their students more seriously, I believe they can still improve on them. The first way I believe improvement can be accomplished is by allowing students more time for these events.
I was not able to attend many of the mental health events due to my busy schedule. Being a student leader and one of the top performing students in my department did not leave a lot of time for me to focus on my own mental health. I am not the only one with a story like this. Many of my peers have stated similar reasons for neglecting their mental health as well. Due to other commitments, many students cannot attend something like an “Hour of Joy.” Because of this I believe the university should adopt a similar idea called “Free Black Joy Day.”
This idea comes from the television series “All-American: Homecoming,” which features a fictional HBCU called Bringston University as its central location. In the series, the mental health day is initiated in the aftermath of the university receiving a bomb threat. With students reeling from the ordeal, the day acts as a way for them to unwind and put their mental health first. Classes and games are canceled and students are pushed to utilize the variety of resources to their full potential. Those resources include one-on-one therapy tents, games, manicure and pedicure stations, barbecue and more.
Of course, Alabama State’s version will not look the same, but it is definitely a good idea for the student body. Not only does it give students more time to focus on themselves, but it also allows the campus community to grow closer together. I do not want something like this to be a reactionary measure done because of a traumatic event. It should be something that the university itself recognizes as priority for everyone.
Another idea the university could implement is having an organization dedicated to mental health on campus. It could be headed up by psychology majors and it could give them the opportunity to present their findings to the student body. They could also create events to apply their findings and give students an opportunity to talk about their problems. While some students may find talking to professionals in the counseling center daunting, talking to their peers in a safe space may be more advantageous.
I also believe the university should put vulnerability to the forefront more. Oftentimes students and administrators alike do not feel comfortable being vulnerable with their peers or each other. The reality is we as people go through a lot throughout the school year. Deaths in the family. Sickness. Financial troubles. These are just a few of the things that can plague students and professors and have long-term impacts on their mental and emotional health. Instead of shying away from those feelings, I believe the university should confront them. This kind of thinking will improve mental health on our campus, and it will also bring us all closer to each other.
Mental health is important. Students, faculty and staff alike all experience things in life and handle them in their own way. With Alabama State University making several strides toward improving the way it approaches the topic, I believe leaning all the way into it will pay off big time. Being creative, getting input from the student body and being open-minded will make a difference as Hornet Nation continues to fight for mental wellness.