Nebiyah Dyer and Danielle Chavrimootoo Kingston University
My name is Nebiyah Dyer I am a Graduate Inclusion Intern on the Culturally Responsive Mental Health and Wellbeing project at Kingston University. My work supports the production of literature, university data, and implementation strategies which will be used to embed culturally sensitive mental health literacies into the curriculum.
I have been working with Danielle Chavrimootoo Senior Lecturer in Teaching and Learning at Kingston University. Danielle’s work focuses on Inclusive Curriculum Projects, she is also The Equality Diversity and Inclusion Lead for the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and Doctoral Candidate at Lancaster University.
We are working towards training academic staff on how to embed culturally responsive mental health and wellbeing literacies into the curriculum.
We are aware that racism has a direct impact on the mental state of university students from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (B.A.M.E.) backgrounds. Students often internalise the idea that they do not belong or deserve to be in Higher Education, which in turn can trigger mental health issues such as anxiety or paranoia (Wong, Elmorally, Copsey-Blake, Highwood and Singarayer, 2021; Lynam, Lafarge, Milani, and Worrell, 2021, p.18-19; Dortch and Patel, 2017).
Consequently, students can become less able to engage and progress in their studies, complete assignments on time, or fulfil their academic potential. Despite this, B.A.M.E. students are less likely to access mental health services. This is due to a complex combination of factors such as the lack of B.A.M.E. representation amongst staff, historical medical mistrust and trauma, fear of mental health stigmatisation, a lack of mental health literacy, and a disbelief in mental health (Arday, 2018; Black People Talk, 2021, p.2, 4).
This is particularly troubling since B.A.M.E. students enter university with racial and intergenerational trauma that universities neither recognise the existence and impact of, nor teach their students how to manage. As a result, students’ academic progression and attainment may suffer. The problem here, is that students are expected to seek out mental health support for themselves once in a crisis, which places further strain on already taxed students. Even when they do receive support, it is often not culturally responsive. That is, universities fail to acknowledge the impact that race, culture, and racism have on the mental states of their students. Further to this, universities favour Eurocentric mental health perceptions and interventions over cultural congruent alternatives. This serves as an invalidation of B.A.M.E. students’ cultural and racial identities and mental health experiences. This illustrates a clear need for universities to embed culturally responsive mental health literacies into the curriculum.
We undertook a pilot project in June 2021, which involved training a group of academics from the Faculty of Business and Social Sciences. Academics attended several workshops aimed at raising their awareness of culturally responsive mental health and wellbeing. I feel very privileged to have worked alongside Nebiyah and the Inclusive Curriculum Consultants who co-led one of the workshops. The inclusive curriculum consultants spoke of their experiences during their first year at university and provided suggestions to staff on how to develop culturally responsive mental health strategies. The feedback we received was positive, staff spoke about how useful the sessions were in raising awareness. However, there was a need to provide more practical suggestions on how to embed strategies into the curriculum and personal tutoring.
We are in the process of offering further workshops in 2022 focusing on racial trauma and the impact of microaggressions. A co-produced toolkit and follow-on workshop will launch in January 2022.
Nabiyah and Dani
If you putwe happy to collaborate with others whose research interests are around developing culturally responsive mental wellbeing curriculum praxis.
Arday, J. 2018. Understanding Mental Health: What Are the Issues for Black and Ethnic Minority Students at University? Social sciences, 7(196). [online].
Available at: <Social Sciences | Free Full-Text | Understanding Mental Health: What Are the Issues for Black and Ethnic Minority Students at University? (mdpi.com)> [Accessed 22nd November 2021].
Black People Talk, 2021. Black Students Talk: Mental Health Peer Support for Black University Students in the UK: Impact Report 2020/21. [pdf].
Available at: < https://blackpeopletalk.co.uk/publications > [Accessed 22nd November 2021].
Dortch, D. and Patel, C. 2017. Black Undergraduate Women and Their Sense of Belonging in STEM at Predominantly White Institutions. NASPA Journal About Women in Higher Education, 10(2), pp.202-215. [online].
Available at: <http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19407882.2017.1331854> [Accessed 22nd November 2021].
Lynam, S., Lafarge, C., Milani, R. M., and Worrell, M. 2021. Mental Health and Wellbeing in Doctoral Students from BAME Backgrounds. In: Jayman, M., Glazzard, J., and Rose, A. 2021. BERA Bites 6: Researching Education and Mental Health: From ‘Where are we now?’ to ‘What next?’. [PDF].
Available at: < https://www.bera.ac.uk/publication/bera-bites-issue-6-researching-education-mental-health-from-where-are-we-now-to-what-next > [Accessed 22nd November 2021]
Wong, B., Elmorally, R., Copsey-Blake, M., Highwood, E., and Singarayer, J. 2021. Is race still relevant? Student perceptions and experiences of racism in higher education. Cambridge Journal of Education, 51(3), pp.359-375. [online].
Available at: <https://doi.org/10.1080/0305764X.2020.1831441> [Accessed 22nd November 2021].
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