Dean Bridget Terry Long and several members of the HGSE community, came together today with leading researchers, practitioners, administrators, faculty, and students to better understand the mental and emotional health experiences of young people of color within Harvard University. The one-day convening Young, Gifted & Well, hosted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Office of the President and Provost, and The Steve Fund, explored how we can better support wellness through policy and practice.
“When we support and invest in students of color, we create a stronger community of learners, who are better prepared to go on and support others, whether it be in the classroom or in a chosen field,” Long said, expressing the significance of mental health issues on all college campuses, and a true need for more efforts in prevention and response.
Lecturer Josephine Kim and Assistant Professor Anthony Jack spoke about the cultural and social determinants of mental and emotional health on college campuses.
Kim shared that one in four people have mental health issues, and that 75% will experience mental health issues before the age of 24. “It’s not an exaggeration to say at some point in your lifetime, you will be affected by mental health issues,” she said. Yet young people of color do not always share that they are struggling, Kim said. Whether they were not raised to ask for help, or mental illness is not recognized in their culture, or they are contending with issues of systemic racism on campus — there are many reasons they do not ask for help.On average, it takes a young person of color five years before telling anyone, she said, adding that each year there are 1,100 people who commit suicide on college campuses.
Understanding what resources are available to them is another issue, said Jack. Sharing his research on the “privileged poor,” which explores the lives of low-income students at elite college campuses, Jack expressed a need for mental health services to become better “nested” in the undergraduate experience, where we see them as important and powerful as the office of career services.