October 12, 2021 by Anushree Gade, LHC Student Assistant
Mental health is often defined as “emotional, psychological, and social well-being” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020). It was not until recent times that there was more awareness of mental health. Furthermore, there is also a stigma associated with the discussion and acceptance of mental health which may vary with culture.
In certain Asian cultures, the stigma surrounding mental health is colossal. Discussing mental health is considered taboo in these cultures. These aspects of culture that impact mental health cause people of that culture to undermine their mental health and well-being. As a result of this, many avoid seeking medical care to address it and avoid talking about it (Nishi, 2012). This stigma can also be seen in African American culture. In one study, 63% of African Americans responded that mental illnesses are seen as signs of weakness (National Alliance on Mental Illness [NAMI], n.d.). In Hispanic culture, it is common to keep private challenges to one’s self. This lack of discussion on such topics inhibits the acknowledgement of mental health and also creates a gap in knowledge in mental health issues and symptoms. Furthermore, this can contribute to strengthening the stigma surrounding mental health in this culture (NAMI, n.d.). As we can see through these examples, culture influences the level of stigma that surrounds the topic of mental health; it can positively reinforce that stigma if there is a lack of awareness around it.
Development of Mental Health at UAB
The mental health of college students has been of growing concern in the past couple of years. A survey conducted by Dr. Sarah Ketchen Lipson in 2020 revealed that half of the students that were surveyed presented symptoms of depression or anxiety and at least 83% said that their mental health was negatively impacting their academic success (McAlpine, 2021). With increases in mental health issues in students across college campuses, it is necessary for university administrations to implement policies, programs, and services which address this.
UAB has implemented several initiatives and services that aimed to address the issue of mental health on campus. One such initiative was the UAB CARES Suicide Prevention Initiative. CARES stands for “communicate, assess, refer, educate.” The goal of the UAB CARES initiative is to help connect students experiencing mental health concerns to resources that are on campus and off in order to help them. This initiative was started in the Fall of 2018 and was unanimously approved by the University’s President and senior cabinet (University of Alabama at Birmingham [UAB], n.d.).
Through the development of the UAB CARES initiative, several recommendations were made after reviewing the existing policies at the time (and were unanimously approved). These recommendations are categorized into three main groups: Prevention and Awareness; Education; and Policies, Procedures, and Services. The full listing of recommendations can be found here. As a result of this initiative, UAB has established that students and faculty should all be able to have continuity in care to support their mental health. Furthermore, the initiative prompted campus wide education efforts on the various crisis response teams available to UAB faculty, students, and staff. Crisis Text Lines specific to UAB were established and the University also began to offer training through the Kognito At-Risk program. Below is a list of resources that UAB provides for students’ mental health!
Student Mental Health Resources at UAB
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