Black IMSA students, being both teenagers and minorities, face unique challenges in mental health struggles. Raven McKelvin states that “with being a Black woman, there is a stigma that tends to correlate with the Black community involving mental health”. Over the years, McKelvin says, this stigma has lessened slightly but she still sees the impact affecting Black individuals. Many households reinforce the idea that “feeling in an upset mood should not conflict with your daily life”, and typically ignore any obvious issues. Suleiman agrees with this stigma, stating that, “it feels taboo for a lot of Black people to go seek help even when it’s necessary”. She contributes this not only to the stigma within the black community, but also “the racism that is oh so prevalent in the health system”.
According to Jadesola Suleiman, she noticed “an unmovable burden on my shoulders where I feel I have to be perfect all the time”. She believes that her actions will “reflect on the entire Black diaspora” and that she can get tired from that burden. Suleiman states, “There is this constant need to prove myself, prove that I am worthy of my spot at IMSA but also prove that I’m worthy of the other things I achieve.”
Additionally, many Black students may face prejudice from outside individuals. McKelvin states, that she feels that she is “looked at differently from the world … from just the color of [my] skin, which has a huge impact on mental struggles”. Many feel the lack of representation in society. Suleiman says that “a lot of minorities feel [bad] when they are put into environments where they are the only one of a few people who look like them”.
In order to help alleviate some of these issues facing Black IMSA students, McKelvin suggests, “making people more away of diversity, equality, and inclusion”. She believes that IMSA sets a good standard for spreading awareness for the struggles of minorities, and “we all just have to grasp a better understanding of what type of awareness is being spread”. Suleiman believes that we, as a community, must understand that we are not “fine as we are”. She states, “there is so much more to learn and as IMSA students we should always be striving to learn”. She calls on her experience hearing other students complain about diversity training, claiming that reading the book March, a comic book summarizing the civil rights movement, was enough, “March should never be where you stop the civil rights movement, it is an interesting nuanced movement with many different opinions. There is not one book that teaches it all”.
However, there are still initiatives within the IMSA community that are helping to reduce mental health struggles of Black students. McKelvin states that, “If I can say one thing I’ve grasped while living at IMSA the past three months, I would have to say I have learned a lot about different cultures”. She’s truly appreciated learning about different cultures and their associated events. That education “makes IMSA students feel a lot more comfortable”. Suleiman also attributes positivity towards IMSA’s education towards different cultures: “I think one thing that IMSA has done right is having the culture clubs and giving them such a large presence on campus”. She states that her favorite aspect are the read-ins, “I recently went to the NASS read-in for Native American Heritage Month and I loved hearing from different Native authors”.
Overall, McKelvin believes that, “as a community, we can work together to be more understanding of each other”. She states that we have to look at issues through multiple perspectives and lenses. “It is up to the US to break down barriers and work together to make change in this world”. She believes that educating the public will not only help the Black community, but will also, “clear the stigmas in a lot of groups”.
Suleiman says that “IMSA can get a lot better about acknowledging the racism that happens on campus and actually addressing it in a way that is meaningful and not just PR”. She has witnessed many students have racist things said to them, but don’t take any action because they don’t think anything will happen. “Students shouldn’t feel that way, they should be able to report bias incidents knowing that action will be taken and other non-black students should be able to call our the racism they see on campus”.