Hampton University's Efforts to Change the Stigmas Around Mental Health

By Alazja Kirk

At a time when people are becoming more aware of the importance of mental health, the fields of psychology and counseling are not meeting the mental health needs of African Americans in the United States. Hampton University's faculty and students are analyzing the problem and preparing to make a difference. The inner-cultural stigmas that keep people from seeking help include racial stereotypes and a history of abuse by medical providers that breeds mistrust in patients. In some cases, generations of poverty have left a legacy of mental health issues and a lack of ability to determine when to seek help.

Also, only 6.2 percent of psychologists and 12.6 percent of social workers are people of color, according to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI). Hampton wants to increase the number of African Americans working in the field.

"If we aren't able to address those pressing problems as mental health care providers, how can we expect minority groups to ask for our help?" said Dr. Kevin Tarlow, a Hampton University professor.

For the past seven years, 10 percent of Hampton University's student population has been psychology students. At least 60 to 70 percent of the students attend graduate school. There are nine faculty members in the Department of Psychology, who partner with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, which allows students to experience hands-on patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and other conditions.

African American patients tend to feel more comfortable about therapy when seeing African American psychologists. While improved results are challenging to quantify, African Americans report being more comfortable seeing a professional who comes from the same cultural background as they do and say they are more likely to seek help from a black doctor, according to Harvard Business Review.

Theoretically, the color of someone's skin should not determine a psychologist's effectiveness or empathy. However, many students in Tarlow's fall class think there is an implicit feeling of having a connection if they walk into a therapist's office and see that they are also African American. Students agreed that they feel that way themselves.

"When you have someone that looks like you, you can relate to them better," one student said. "You can build a relationship with your therapist and, in turn, that will help you out more."

But that requires getting patients in the door. And, experts say that's where the problem starts. Forty percent of African-Americans are more likely to experience more mental health issues than the general population and are less likely to seek help, according to The Office of Minority Health.

"It's almost as if we're in denial, as if we can't have something wrong with us," said Brianna Robinson, a senior psychology major. Problems that emerge as children, if not dealt with, can get worse and be more detrimental, she said.

African American children and youth in impoverished environments are often exposed to violence, and they are more likely to suffer the loss of a loved one, to be victimized, to attend substandard schools, and suffer from abuse and neglect. In turn, they usually encounter too few opportunities for safe, organized recreation and other constructive outlets, according to The National Research Council.

Mental health issues aren't considered to be medical issues within the African American Community, but are interpreted as character flaws, signs of weakness, or personal problems that can be overcome.

"It can be very much like pray about your problems or pretend they don't exist. Meanwhile, we're just continuing to suffer," said Dr. Kristie Norwood, director of the Counseling Center.

Social stigmas against mental health play a significant role in discouraging African Americans from seeking help. Norwood is working to normalize the idea of seeking mental health treatment. She believes that it isn't something a person should be ashamed or afraid of doing. Norwood's passion for psychology came from wanting to help people who look like her, something the program emphasizes.

"We have to change the stigma to be open to talking about it and get the necessary help," said Autumn Griffin, a senior psychology major. "A lot of people feel that if they have a mental illness, they are crazy. That's not what mental health is."

Dr. Kermit Crawford, psychologist and chair of Hampton University's psychology department, thinks some African Americans are less likely to seek help because they aren't educated about mental health.

"When I was growing up, I didn't think about seeing anyone as a therapist. There weren't any therapists in my community," Crawford said. "I didn't know anyone who would say they are seeing a therapist because they didn't want to be looked on as weak or not fit for what they are doing."

To change the stigma, psychologists have to look at why the stigma exists in the first place.

"Sometimes the outcomes are different, not because the illness is different, but because the health care system can't provide care in a non-discriminatory way," Tarlow said. In many cases, minority groups aren't able to afford health care options that aren't going to discriminate against them.

"Even when different groups have the same amount of stress or illness, we have to look at what the access to care is like for those groups," Tarlow said. "Can they access affordable, quality mental health care that works for them?"

The cost of mental health resources is not only less accessible in some communities, but it can also be a financial burden. In 2005, Crawford worked with victims and evacuees of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Later, he worked in Massachusetts, where two planeloads of Hurricane Katrina evacuees came.

He remembers speaking to one patient who said: "I first have to get my life together. I have to get my family together. I have to get my housing together. I have to get my employment together. I'll have my mental break down later."

Hampton University's psychology department faculty have science-oriented and diverse backgrounds, Norwood said. As a new member of the faculty, she was thrilled to see how invested the staff is in their students during their undergraduate career and preparing them for graduate school.

As part of that initiative, the faculty is working on project grants that could help students spend time in real-world psychological patient environments.

Hampton University has continuously made strides to help people in the Hampton Roads area who need to talk about their mental health. The first chair of the department was Kenneth Clark, who conducted the Doll Study, which looked at the psychological effects of segregation on African American children. Clark and his wife, Mamie Clark, used four dolls, identical except for color, to test children's racial perceptions.

Some years later, the "father of black psychology," Reginald Jones, became chair of the department.

"We've educated a lot of students over time. We try to encourage students to continue their education in psychology and go to therapy," Crawford said.

Hampton University's psychology students are trained to be graduate students during their time in the program. Students have the option to take a few different avenues; some students go on to become licensed clinical psychologists or enter into a master's degree program. Some students focus more on social work, which allows them to become a licensed clinical social worker.

Psychologists pride themselves on the ability to pay it forward and help those who seek help. For instance, Crawford believes he is doing God's work.

"The gift that I was given, I feel like I'm giving back," he said.

PSYCHOLOGY ORGANIZATIONS

Hampton University is home to many organizations that welcome students who have a passion for psychology in the African American community. The Psychology Club provides many opportunities for its members through social interaction, community service, and panel discussions.

The organization also sponsors a variety of activities throughout the school year, including volunteering at local shelters and nursing homes, fundraising for charities, campus speakers, and interactive movie nights.

Psi Chi is the International Honor Society at Hampton University. The mission of this prestigious organization is to encourage, stimulate and maintain excellence in scholarship in efforts to advance the science of psychology. Members Psi Chi work together to initiate community service projects, host seminars and continuously aim to improve the organization's mission.

Leila Steinberg Highlights 4th Annual Hampton University Film Festival

By By Malcolm Carter

Inspired by managing Tupac, 20 years after his violent death, Leila Steinberg is finally trying to make their dreams come true by diverting young black men from the prison pipeline.

Steinberg was part of the Hampton University Film Festival (HUFF), appearing Nov. 12 and 13 on panels about emotional literacy and prison reform.

Using panel discussions, master classes and film screenings, the film festival delved deeply into black identity in America today. Themes included race, social justice, prison reform and the need for more black leadership.

Steinberg, a filmmaker and former manager of Tupac Shakur, highlighted a long list of some of Hollywood's best.

Steinberg is also an educator and founder of AIM4TheHeART, a nonprofit that is committed to aiding at-risk youth in finding their voices by teaching the importance of emotional literacy and proper writing techniques.

Steinberg held a master class Nov. 13, telling the story of how she started in the music industry and eventually become Tupac's manager.

"I met him at one of my poetry classes, and I was immediately struck at how talented and professional he was to only be 17 years old," Steinberg said. "He was able to put his feelings and thoughts on paper in a way that everyone could understand. Black, white, young or old, it didn't matter."

Tupac lived with Steinberg and her family for a short time, and she credits this relationship with becoming a better mother to her own children, who identified more with their's father's African-American heritage than with her Jewish one.

"He taught me about the important job I had in raising black children even though I wasn't black myself," Steinberg said. "He wanted them to embrace their heritage in a world that will judge them solely based on the color of their skin."

Steinberg and Shakur would seem to have nothing in common, but according to Steinberg, they shared the same passion for music, education and racial equality.

With her connections in the film industry coupled with Tupac's unique music style, the two would begin to gain traction across the West Coast.

She managed and mentored Shakur until he outgrew her, she said.

He went on to become one of the most influential rap artists in history and has held onto this title even after his death in 1996. Shakur was gunned down at a red light in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sept. 13. His death was a shock to the music industry because he was only 25 years old and on his way to becoming one of the greatest artists of his time.

In addition to the great music they created, Steinberg and Shakur started The Microphone Sessions, a writing workshop that focuses on creating a free space for spoken word, poetry, singing and drama.

"The best way to positively impact the minds of youth is to first touch the heart," Steinberg said.

As the program facilitator, Steinberg sees confronting pain as the best way to move past it. She believes self-awareness is key to making better choices.

Weekly gatherings are held worldwide, led by educators trained by Steinberg. Aside from the microphone sessions, arguably some of Steinberg's most important work over the past 25 years has been her teaching inmates at San Quentin prison, through the No More Tears program.

The program was founded by inmates at San Quentin in 2002 to combat the rise of violent crime in Oakland and to reduce the recidivism rates of black men.

Like the AIM program, No More Tears provides a safe space for inmates to talk about their feelings.

The prison system nationwide has failed to provide avenues for inmates to express themselves and to work on becoming better citizens once they return to society, Steinberg said.

Steinberg is also working on a short documentary on the program.

"The goal of this documentary is to promote what people of color in America are going through," Steinberg said. "It's about reaching those people who don't go through these struggles to help bridge the gap."

Since 2004, more than 1,000 men have completed the program.

Steinberg would like to see the entire prison industrial complex abolished, she said.

"Prison is supposed to be a place where you learn from your mistakes and get help to become a functioning citizen in society, but instead, prisoners are left in cages for years to rot," Steinberg said. "This cycle needs to be broken."

Is the Smoke Worth It?

By Calyx Stover

At least three out of every ten Hampton University students use some type of vaping device, the same kind that has killed dozens of users in the United States and sickened hundreds of others.

Vaping has become one of the biggest health concerns involving teens and young adults, and Hampton health care workers are determined to protect students.

"We have to look at how the use of e cigarettes among young adults has sky rocketed," says Megan Hill, a health education specialist at Hampton University.

Hill urged students to call help hotlines, contact the Ex program on campus which helps smokers quit, or call her directly.

Vaping companies have made their product enticing to students, Hill said.

The appeal includes the small amount of odorless smoke the vaping device emits, making it easy to use in public without public knowledge. Vapes are also small and easy to conceal because they appear to be a flash drive or other school supply. They are often thin, flat, long and wrapped in metal.

At a cost of $35 to $50, devices provide high doses of nicotine in flavors appealing to young people including bubblegum, mango, mint and watermelon. One JUUL pod is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes and one THC oil cartridge used for dab vapes is equivalent to a gram of weed.

Photo courtesy of www.juul.com

Students on campus say vape devices are easy to obtain from smoke shops. Students older than the required minimum age of 21 will buy them and resell cartridges and pods to classmates as a small business.

"Vaping is super easy and convenient. Most people on campus hear about it from a friend who helps them get the vape and the cartridges or pods," said Jayla Poindexter, a junior psychology student.

A side-by-side comparison shows that cigarette and JUUL ads send similar messages about the portability, taste, appearance and "cool factor" of the products. JUUL's ads are nearly identical to tobacco companies, according to research by Stanford University.

A small study, conducted at Hampton University, showed that two out of every four vape users were not smokers before they began vaping indicating that many students are forming new unhealthy habits with vapes.

"Vaping is being marketed as an alternative smoking sensation to help customers quit, but research is showing that people partaking in vaping were not smokers before," Hill said.

While JUUL Labs insists that their products are marketed toward and meant to be used by adults, Stanford's study of the company's marketing campaign between JUUL's launch in 2015 and fall 2018 indicates that the startup was intentionally targeting youth.

"These vapes are advertised everywhere that young people go," said Hill.

Most gas stations near Hampton University's campus sell everything needed for a JUUL. There are also three smoke shops within a five-mile radius of the campus, so dab pen devices are easily accessible to students as well. Several lawsuits have been filed against JUUL claiming the product marketing has caused use to skyrocket in minors. In one, plaintiffs allege the company's use of social media targeted minors with visually appealing ads, according to The Washington Post.

The company is being investigated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for similar reasons.

"I found out about vapes on Instagram because I would constantly see ads. Next thing I knew, I would always see people smoking them on campus and at parties," one student said."

JUUL acknowledges there is a problem.

"The numbers tell us underage use of e-cigarette products is a problem. We must solve it," CEO Kevin Burns said in a post to the company's website.

The FDA's investigation has resulted in restrictions on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and an age verification process for those who visit e-cigarette websites, both of which have been implemented in the state of Virginia.

"It's kind of hard to tell if the new bans and initiatives will work, but they are a start and it takes time to see change," said Hill.

Wild night in at HU’s Wylin’ Out

Photo Credit: Kayla Smith

By Kayla Smith | Staff Writer

Hampton students crowded the Student Center Atrium Oct. 23 to watch Hampton's very own alumna Chelsea Raye host "Wylin' Out," HU's spin on Nick Cannon's "Wild n' Out."

Every floor of the building was packed to watch the Blue Squad battle the Black Squad in competition for who could make the audience laugh the most.

There were multiple rounds to the night, with each round covering a different topic that kept the audience laughing. Segments ranged from a family reunion round that sent teams out into the crowd to pick an unsuspecting audience member to an impersonation round that had team members doing their best imitation of whatever the theme was. The stage was set, and the rules for the rounds were placed. Witty, and sometimes even personal, jokes were exchanged back and forth between teams and sometimes even against actual audience members. For two hours, teams did not back down.

The groups' approaches were also very important to winning over the audience on this night. It was still a competition between the two, and whoever had a combination of the most dings from DJ Vince and the most reaction from the crowd won that specific round.

For the rest of the article head to The Hampton Script.

Homecoming fashion show: “For the Culture”

Photo Credit: Taylor Gravesande

By Shadae Simpson | Staff Writer

Another Homecoming Fashion Show is in the books after last week's "For the Culture" show put on by the students of Hampton University. Students, parents and staff all gathered in the Student Center Ballroom to see this annual show Oct. 22.

Although the show seemed effortlessly put together, teams worked for more than a month, enduring long practices, to ensure they put on the best possible show that they could, which means that sometimes practices ran until 2 a.m. However, all the late hours and hard work paid off, because every model presented a sharp performance and artfully presented the brands for which they were modeling.

"The show was a lot of fun!" said HU student Andrew Wilborn, a senior journalism major from Virginia. "It took a lot of hard work and practicing, but I couldn't have asked for a better second-to-last show of my college career."

It was clear that the directors and designers had a clear vision of how they wanted the show to turn out, and it is safe to say that their vision was brought to fruition that night. Everything was clean and precise from the opening of the show when the first model walked down the runway to the final flood. The crowd reciprocated the model's energy which made for an even more successful event.

For the rest of the article head to The Hampton Script.

Da Baby takes over da real HU

Photo Credit: Tyla Barnes

By Andi McCloud | Staff Writer

More than 1,000 Hampton University students and Hampton Roads residents Oct. 26 piled into the HU Convocation Center to kick off the HU Homecoming weekend with the annual Homecoming Concert. Da Baby, along with Hampton University's best talent, performed at this year's concert and gave Onyx 11 perhaps the greatest concert in their tenure at Hampton. Since the arrival of Onyx 11, this class has made it their duty to leave a mark on Hamptons University's campus.

"With our homecoming theme being 'A Different Homecoming,' ode to the show 'A Different World,' said to be inspired by the college life here at Hampton, this year had to be special," Hampton University senior Nyla Whyte said.

Even the opening acts gave Hampton a different show. Through diverse performances including an R&B duet KaEl & Heather featuring trumpeteer DeAndre Smith-Brown and a father/son rap duo Big Rick & Lil Rick, the crowd partied in the Convocation Center waiting for the main act.

For the rest of the article head to The Hampton Script.

Pepsi and Essence host star-studded tailgate; Kicks off HBCU initiative

Photo Credit: Hampton Athletic Marketing

By Leenika Belfield-Martin | Lifestyle Editor

Pepsi and Essence joined forces to bring students and alumni the ultimate tailgate experience with guest appearances from Kash Doll, Rotimi, D.J. Envy and more on October 26. This event kicks off the launch of their initiative celebrating black women called "She Got Now."

"Homecoming is a special time for us and to have two power house brands like Pepsi and ESSENCE on campus recruiting, supporting and honoring the young Black women we develop here at Hampton, is phenomenal," said President Dr. William R. Harvey in a university press release.

From noon to seven at night the lawn behind Martin Luther King Hall was transformed into an outdoor stage accompanied with various tents from alumni groups, Bumble, Pepsi and Essence.

Media personalities Scottie Beam and Gia Peppers lead the crowd in various activities like a "Hampton's got talent" competition, a Beyonce dance-off, and the HBCU staple swag surf. Both returning Hamptonians and current students were impressed by the event.

For the rest of the article head to The Hampton Script.

Hampton University Welcomes Students from the Bahamas

By Raven Harper

Shortly after Hurricane Dorian swept across the islands of the Bahamas, destroying homes, lives and families, President William R. Harvey extended Hampton University's campus to students from the University of the Bahamas. In an agreement with the North Campus of the University of the Bahamas, displaced students were offered free tuition and room and board for the 2019 fall semester.

At an orientation program Sept. 24 in the Student Center Ballroom, the new students were greeted by the Greer Dawson Wilson Student Leadership Program, administration and fellow peers. The HU Marching Force and Blue Thunder Cheerleading Team opened the ceremony, and Vice President of Administrative Services Dr. Barbara Inman officiated the program.

During the program, administration and faculty members congratulated the new students for having the brave spirits to take a huge leap, and President Harvey shared how this all began. After the hurricane, President Harvey reached out to the president of the University of the Bahamas to inquire about the state of the school and found out the North Campus was destroyed.

"Obviously, that touched my heart," President Harvey said. "So, I thought about it overnight. Next morning, I called him back and told him that Hampton University would provide room and board, free tuition fees and other incidentals for any of the students from that North Campus."

For more on this story, read the Oct. 4 issue of The Hampton Script or visit HamptonScript.com.

University Career Fair

By Kayla Smith

Dozens of motivated Hampton students gathered Sept. 26 in the Convocation Center for the University Career Fair with the hope of creating connections that could secure their futures.

With more than 100 tables of representatives from major corporations such as Bank of America to school districts from Georgia, students mingled with eager employers. Hampton has always been a huge advocate for preparing its students for success, and this career fair was an excellent opportunity for both the students and recruiters.

The University Career Fair is a way for students to be able to network with representatives from companies and create relationships. With increasingly competitive markets around the country, this type of exposure is crucial to build up one's experience in professional settings. By enforcing a strict business professional attire, this provides students with real-life readiness for when they enter the industry.

For more on this story, read the Oct. 4 issue of The Hampton Script or visit HamptonScript.com.

Looking in Hindsight and Beyond with Hampton Creative Deanna Blu

By Brandi Hutchinson

Hampton University is an inclusive institution that embodies art and its various forms. Every year, more creatives are enrolled from all over to continue their journey of making art.

Deanna Blu is one of those multitalented creatives.

The senior strategic communication major, also known as Masie Blu, is an indie soul artist from Philadelphia. Blu is a singer, songwriter and producer who not only creates music to express herself but also to uplift and inspire others. She breaks societal barriers by utilizing her talents to define art in her own way through music and other forms. She constantly takes full advantage of the role the artist plays in society by using her creative expression.

"Art is a beautiful outlet to share," Blu said. "I identify with all forms of art. I create sculptures, paintings, poetry, songs, choreography, photography and video edits. I love art. I enjoy songwriting the most."

Deanna Blu released her debut album Hindsight on March 25. Hindsight is the understanding of a situation or event only after it has happened or developed. Blu uses the meaning of the word "hindsight" to help her depict the message of growth and transformation through her piece of work. She expresses her understanding of the lessons learned after experience and the growth she gained behind it.

"I loved the actual definition of hindsight when I discovered it," Blu said. "My album Hindsight was written because the songs I wrote are about lessons that I turned into gems."

For more on this story, read the Oct. 4 issue of The Hampton Script or visit HamptonScript.com.

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