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Prioritizing Self-Care at HBCUs: Colleges Are Taking the Lead on Self-Care

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have long been at the forefront of providing education and opportunities to African-American students. However, in recent years, HBCUs have also been taking strides toward promoting self-care initiatives on their campuses.


Self-care, defined as the deliberate practice of caring for one's physical, emotional, and mental health, has become a critical component of student success in higher education. HBCUs have recognized this need and have implemented various programs and resources to support their students' well-being.


These initiatives have successfully broken down the stigma surrounding mental health, provided necessary resources, and improved academic performance. Moreover, it is worth noting that self-care is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and HBCUs have recognized this by offering a range of programs and resources tailored to meet the unique needs of their student populations. Here are some noteworthy HBCU programs:


  • "Mental Health Matters" campaign launched by Bowie State University. This campaign aims to break down mental health stigma and provide students with the resources and support they need to prioritize their mental health. As part of the campaign, Bowie State created a Mental Health and Wellness Center, which offers various services, including individual counseling, group therapy, and stress-management workshops.


  • Morgan State University implemented the "Breathe Easy" campaign, which promotes mindfulness and stress reduction techniques. The campaign offers yoga and meditation classes, workshops on deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques.


  • Prairie View A&M University implemented the "PV Wellness Initiative," which provides resources and support for Black male students, recognizing the unique challenges they face in mental health and well-being.


  • Self-care initiatives have also been integrated into the academic curriculum, emphasizing the importance of self-care in all aspects of life. For example, Hampton University has a course titled "Introduction to Mindfulness," which teaches students about mindfulness practice and its benefits for mental health.


  • Howard University is also prioritizing the wellness of its student leaders through a weekly check-in tool created by a graduate student. According to an online university publication called The Dig, the program was originally intended for Chapel Assistants, but now the wellness check-in is available to all student leaders of Chapel-led organizations. Participants communicate their challenges and successes as students and campus leaders. The tool includes questions about students' moods, how they are navigating their leadership roles, and what support they may need on campus. The initiative aims to create a safe space for students to seek support and to refer them to partners across campus when additional support is needed. Alabama State University also launched a program called "Counseling and Psychological Services" that provides mental health support to its students. The program includes individual counseling, group therapy, and crisis intervention services. Moreover, Clark Atlanta University established the "Elevate" program, which offers resources and workshops on stress management, mindfulness, and overall well-being.


Several HBCUs have also intentionally created spaces for students to unite and support each other through difficult times. For example, North Carolina A&T State University's "Wellness Wednesdays" program offers workshops, yoga, and meditation sessions to promote self-care and community building.


In addition, self-care initiatives have also been extended to faculty and staff, recognizing the importance of their well-being in creating a supportive and nurturing environment for students.


For instance, Spelman College has implemented the "Faculty and Staff Care Team," which offers faculty and staff mental health support and resources. Similarly, several other institutions, including Florida A&M University, offer an "Employee Assistance Program," to confidential counseling and referrals for mental health support.


These efforts have not gone unnoticed. HBCUs have been recognized for their self-care initiatives and have received grants and funding to continue their work. For example, Morgan State University was awarded a $200,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to expand its mental health and wellness services for students.


These initiatives have not only positively impacted students' mental health but have also improved their academic performance. According to a study by the American College Health Association, students who prioritize their mental health and engage in self-care practices tend to have higher GPAs, increased academic performance, and greater overall satisfaction with their college experience.

In a white paper published by the HBCU Mental Health Project, a collaboration between the Steve Fund and the Jed Foundation, several HBCUs were recognized for promoting mental health and wellness on their campuses.


Bowie State University and Morgan State University were highlighted as institutions that have taken proactive steps to address their student populations' mental health and wellness concerns.


The white paper also emphasized the importance of partnerships between HBCUs and mental health organizations, citing Howard University's collaboration with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. This partnership has allowed Howard University to bring in expert speakers and offer specialized training to faculty and staff on supporting students' emotional well-being.


The success of these self-care initiatives is evident in the positive feedback from students and their impact on campus culture. Students report feeling more supported and empowered to prioritize their mental health and well-being. There has been a noticeable shift towards a more holistic approach to education and student success.


These initiatives have not only positively impacted students' mental health but have also improved their academic performance. According to a study by the American College Health Association, students who prioritize their mental health and engage in self-care practices tend to have higher GPAs, increased academic performance, and greater overall satisfaction with their college experience.


Self-care initiatives on HBCU campuses have successfully promoted a culture of care and support, benefiting not only individual students but the entire campus community. In addition, HBCUs have taken proactive steps to address the mental health needs of their students, faculty, and staff, setting an example for other institutions to follow. As self-care continues to be a critical component of student success, it is vital to prioritize and invest in these initiatives.

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