The COVID-19 pandemic has caused drastic changes in the world, and social distancing, masks and staying home more often becoming the new normal.
Job loss, thousands of deaths, virtual classes and uncertainty about the virus’ end are part of that new normal, and for many, that normal is beginning to wear on their mental health.
Although students of color aren’t the only ones who have experienced this change, studies show that the minority community is the most affected by COVID-19.
According to the United States Census Bureau, Black Americans make up 13.4% of the population, but they make up 14.4% of COVID-19 deaths.
For comparison, white people make up 60.1% of the population and 55% of deaths.
Cynthia Manzano, Counseling and Psychological Services outreach coordinator, said minority students come to CAPS for mental health issues related to family, school, COVID-19 and more.
Treatment depends on what their unique concerns are, Manzano said, and CAPS is there to provide an open dialogue for students to express their feelings so that their therapist can address those concerns as needed.
Manzano said CAPS tries to connect students with outside resources that may be beneficial.
From campus resources like Multicultural Affairs to student outreach programs like CAPS Ambassadors, CAPS recommends programs they think would help the student improve, she said.
Although the one-on-one therapy is handled by CAPS psychiatrists, presentations, webinars and general education are provided by CAPS Ambassadors.
Because people of color die from COVID-19 at disproportionate rates, the chances that a student of color has lost a family member to COVID-19 is greater, according to NPR.
When it comes to helping students of color deal with a loved one’s death, Manzano said it comes down to the individual’s relationship with their upbringing and racial identities.
For example, if a student knows they usually feel better when they talk to a parent or other family member but find they need encouragement to do so, CAPS can help.
When it comes to counseling students of color, it’s better to keep an ear out and allow the student to make their problems known, rather than making those assumptions, she said.
CAPS is a wonderful resource for students, especially during the pandemic, said Kiva Harper, assistant professor of practice in the school of social work.
Harper has noticed a decrease in engagement in her classes, she said, because her students are dealing with some pretty serious problems on top of COVID-19-related issues.
As a part-time therapist, Harper said many students of color don’t have access to behavioral health services due to the cost, since the average cost of therapy in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is around $100 an hour.
Other factors include the fear of repeating past traumas inflicted on the Black community by mental health experts, which Harper said is understandable given the history.
“There is [a] history of abusive treatment, experimentation and radicalized theories in the field of mental health,” Harper said in an email. “Given this, of course the Black community is reticent to seek mental health treatment from a system that was not designed to serve us.”
Graduate student Christian Aikens is specializing in mental health and substance abuse, and as someone who works in a psychiatric hospital, Aikens said normalizing and talking about mental health needs to be talked about more.
She also said she thinks the Black community needs more Black therapists.
“I think people will be more open with their therapist — well, open and honest with their therapist — if they feel like they can relate to their experiences more,” Aikens said. “Having someone who looks like you will help that.”
CAPS assists students in increasing self-awareness, addressing mental health and emotional concerns, and making positive changes in their lives, according to their website.
Students can visit the CAPS website to learn more about the program and call to arrange an appointment.