July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. In an effort to explore the unique mental health struggles faced by members of racial and ethnic minorities in the United States, we held a roundtable discussion focused on BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) students’ mental health experiences.
Major: Law & Society
Hometown: Bronx, New York
Current Role: Peer Success Coach
Future Plans: Law degree, MA in social work
What unique challenges do people of color face when talking about mental health?
A lack of resources, information, and education on mental health plays a big role in why BIPOC communities struggle with mental health. The first time I learned about mental health was at John Jay. I discovered how to check on my well-being and found a place where I could get the tools and resources to overcome any struggles I was facing.
“The first time I learned about mental health was at John Jay.”
—Maryam Oguntola ’23
When facing mental health struggles, what helps you feel better?
I use two meditation apps, Shine and Smiling Mind. Shine was created by two people of color, and many people providing guidance on the app are women of color. That makes it easier for me to relate to them.
At John Jay, I started using the resources available at the Wellness Center. I’ve always wanted to try therapy because I know how helpful it can be. When I decided to try it, I emailed Corey Head, took a survey, and requested to have a therapist that was a Muslim or Black woman. I wanted to speak to someone who had gone through similar experiences.
“After seeing a therapist at the Wellness Center for almost a year, my mental health has improved dramatically.”
—Maryam Oguntola ’23
How do you feel after speaking with a mental health professional at the Wellness Center?
After seeing a therapist at the Wellness Center for almost a year, my mental health has dramatically improved. I honestly feel happier than I was a year ago and more confident. I also feel motivated to try new things and share what I’ve learned with others, especially at home. I have a little sister and I want her to grow up understanding the importance of mental health. I’m ending the stigma. We must talk about mental health and look after our mental health. Our mental health matters.
Audre Lorde once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it’s self-preservation.” How do you practice self-care?
I’m learning to prioritize myself and putting myself on top of my to-do list. I’m doing things that fill me with joy, like reading and taking naps. I’m also learning to rest and pray on a regular basis. If I’m not thinking right and taking care of myself, then I can’t function and do well with other things in life.
Students can set up a confidential meeting with a trained mental health professional, free of charge, through our Wellness Center. Faculty and staff can access free, confidential, emotional health, and wellness services through the CUNY Work/Life Program.