Counseling Center director gives speech about mental health among African-Americans


Whitney Mathison presented a talk on African Americans mental health in the modern technological age on Wednesday, at 4 p.m. in Evans Commons.
Photo by Abby Stone

ABBY STONE | Reporter

Whitney Mathison, Director of the Counseling and Resource Center, spoke about African-Americans and mental health in the modern technological age. 

Student Involvement presented the event on Wednesday afternoon in Evans Commons. Mathison focused on microaggressions, racial tensions and mental health among African-Americans in today’s society.

She started the talk by handing out two papers. One said “Your body hears everything your mind says, stay positive.” The other had a list of examples of racial microaggressions in therapeutic practice.

Mathison’s presentation prominently included discussion between the audience and herself.

“I like to talk to my audience, and you guys feel free to talk to me as much as you want to,” Mathison said.

Mathison said African-Americans are less likely to seek help with mental health care because of lack of information as well as stigma or cultural biases. Mathison said African-Americans would also like to see other people of color or people they can relate to in mental health programs.

“A lot of African-Americans graduate from counseling, psychology, social work programs, and they don’t feel equipped to work with African-Americans,” Mathison said.

Mathison said many African-Americans perceive mental illness to be a weakness, but that they are twenty percent more likely to experience a mental health issue than the general public. Many are also misdiagnosed, Mathison said; many students are diagnosed with ADHD, when in reality it is trauma.

“We know a lot more about trauma now.” Mathison said. “Still, African-Americans are not as likely to be diagnosed with trauma as other people.”

Toward the end, Mathison set up a trivia game for the audience to participate in. The trivia included many questions about racial inequalities in the St. Louis area.

Mathison concluded with a call to action, saying the public could attend student programs to build relationships.

“Do something to dismantle oppression,” Mathison said. “If you write policies, do that. If you do art, do that. Whatever you do, do it.”