National Center for Campus Public Safety

Managing Student Mental Health at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Access the forum report.
A growing national discourse on mental health is taking place in America, and that discourse is present at many of the country’s college and university campuses – campuses that are often struggling to meet their campus community’s mental health needs because they are under-resourced or lack sufficient training, policies, and procedures. Student mental health programs and services are in large demand at institutions of higher education (IHEs), and many are facing substantial challenges in meeting that demand. Those challenges, in turn, have many campuses re-evaluating their services to prevent and intervene in incidents involving persons with mental health concerns.

To learn more about the specific challenges IHEs, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities in particular, face in this regard, the National Center for Campus Public Safety (NCCPS) partnered with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities-Law Enforcement Executives and Administrators (HBCU-LEEA) to facilitate a forum on July 12, 2016. The forum included 38 campus public safety executives and professionals from 28 HBCUs in 14 states. These key findings emerged throughout the discussion:

  • The need for mental health services is outpacing the growth in staffing and budgets for mental health services at many HBCUs.
  • Too few campus safety officials and first responders are adequately trained in recognizing mental illnesses or responding effectively to persons in distress.
  • HBCUs need clearer policies, more uniform procedures, and broader communication efforts to manage mental health incidents more effectively and efficiently.
  • The social stigma attached to mental health is especially strong on campuses, and campus leaders exacerbate this when they do not prioritize mental health programs.

Forum participants identified the following six broad categories of challenges, and several recommendations to address these challenges: human resource needs, training needs, policy needs, procedural issues, communication obstacles, and cultural barriers.

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