Amid growing concerns about mental health in college students, a Texas university is taking steps to ensure they are providing care for students. On top of its other achievements, Paul Quinn College is now becoming a pioneer in mental health support.
Located in Dallas, Paul Quinn College is the oldest historically black college located west of the Mississippi River. Students come from the inner-city communities of Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. Many of these students come from difficult backgrounds, and many have close friends and family members they have lost to gang violence.
While students initially thrive at Paul Quinn, their schoolwork can suffer as the trauma begins to affect them. In response, the college has launched a mental health campaign to help students and foster both academic and lifelong success.
Each incoming student meets with a counselor for a needs assessment. There is a free on-site mental health care clinic available, and wellness programs are regularly held on campus for education and exercise activities. Dr. Stacia Alexander, the clinic’s director, gave every student her cell phone number during summer orientation. She told them that the school is there for them and they can feel free to talk openly about their issues.
Steps Toward a Better Future
Paul Quinn University school once had a graduation rate of less than 1% — one of the lowest graduation rates in the country.
President Michael Sorrell said he couldn’t understand why. He felt like the school was bringing students into a safe environment that would allow them to thrive. It took time for school administrators to understand the cause: trauma.
People who live in poverty are around two times as likely to have a mental illness. When children experience things like gun violence, abuse or the threat of homelessness, it can lead to depression and anxiety. Unresolved trauma can then be compounded by the stress that comes with college, especially for first-generation students who feel immense pressure to be successful. This is all added to the fact that African Americans generally receive mental health care and counseling at much lower rates than their peers.
President Sorrell went to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center for help around five years ago. There, saw that the issues many students had were signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Professionals started spending time on campus and helping students in any way they could.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott provided a grant recently that helped the school launch its mental health clinic during the last school year. While the school feels it still has a long way to go, the graduation rate is now around 19%. This data is from 2017, when the mental health program was just beginning. The graduation rate may have risen even higher since then.
Resources for College Students
It’s not just students with a background of trauma or poverty who struggle. College students, in general, tend to show high rates of mental health issues compared to other people. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:
- 50% of college students rate their mental health as poor or below average
- 80% of students feel overwhelmed by their school responsibilities
- 30% say they’ve had problems with school because of a mental health issue
Putting a spotlight on these statistics and working to promote mental health programs, such as the program at Paul Quinn College, can reduce the stigma of mental illness and help students of all backgrounds thrive.
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Ayala, Eva-Marie. “How This Texas College Gives Every Single Student Help with Trauma, Mental Health.” The Dallas Morning News, July 6, 2019. Accessed August 8, 2019. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). “College Students Speak: A Survey Report on Mental Health.” 2012. Accessed August 8, 2019.
Ayala, Eva-Marie. “How This Texas College Gives Every Single Student Help with Trauma, Mental Health.” The Dallas Morning News, July 6, 2019. Accessed August 8, 2019.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). “College Students Speak: A Survey Report on Mental Health.” 2012. Accessed August 8, 2019.