EOT 333- Black Students Mental Health at NC State

Speaking with Mental Health Ambassador Elizabeth Dogbe and Prevention Services Coordinate Whitley Grant about the mental health issues that Black NC state students deal. Specifically, focusing on how NC state students should deal with their mental health issues and the servies that the counseling center provides in order to deal with these mental health issues.

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF EPISODE
Provided by Otter.ai

Jeanine Ikekhua 0:00
The views and opinions expressed during Eye on the Triangle do not represent WKNC or NC State Student Media. You are currently tuned into Eye on the Triangle on WKNC 88.1 FM HD one. Thanks for listening. Good evening Raleigh, and welcome to this week's episode of Eye on the Triangle, an NC State student-run student-scripted and student-produced show on WKNC 88.1 FM HD one raleigh. I am Jeanine Ikekhua. On tonight's episode, I sit down with mental health Ambassador Elizabeth Dobay and the alcohol and other drug prevention coordinator for the prevention services, Miss Whitley Grant. In these two interviews, we'll be discussing the mental health at NC State and the unique relationship between black students and mental health. Stay tuned to Eye on the Triangle. In my first episode, I had the opportunity of speaking to Elizabeth Dogbe. Elizabeth is a senior at NC State majoring in civil engineering. She's also a mental health ambassador, and she'll be speaking to us about her mental health journey at NC State. My first question is, as a student, what are some of the mental health issues that you deal with?

Elizabeth Dogbe 1:19
Yeah, so I think a lot of the mental health issues that I grapple with a lot are just first being a black person at a PWI I think is really difficult sometimes, so I struggle a lot with imposter syndrome, um, I'm a civil engineering major. So being in a majority, white majority male program is really tough. I'm walking into classes and feeling like, if I ask questions, other people think I'm stupid, or, you know, if I, if I like give a wrong answer in class, there's like a lot of pressure on me to get that to, like not do that. So I think the way that that causes a lot of mental health issues, I have a lot of problems with self doubt. And, you know, wondering if I'm doing the right thing, and that's affecting my confidence and my self esteem, and it's given me like mild social anxiety, in interactions, I overthink a lot. So a lot of the issues that I have, I've gone to the Counseling Center about really center around like my self image issues, self worth, social situations, figuring out relationships and how I relate to other people.

Jeanine Ikekhua 2:18
That's definitely relatable because I'd be struggling too, I can't even lie

Elizabeth Dogbe 2:23
It's hard. It's really hard. Yeah, and I love state, but I think I definitely wish I knew more about the toll it would take on my mental health before I came for sure.

Jeanine Ikekhua 2:35
So you just talked about, like, the different mental health issues that you face because of college, and it's been so hard, which is completely relatable. How have you coped with these mental issues?

Elizabeth Dogbe 2:47
Yeah, so, um, counseling was a big one, I think I learned a lot of my like, healthier coping strategies from counseling. I try to exercise, I do a lot of yoga, just so I have time in my day to just think. I think another coping strategy that I've done, and it's hard to describe, but I think I kind of like, I think in college, especially in a STEM major, it's easy to like, put your schoolwork above like anything else. And like, you take a lot of like, you like do a lot of like, unhealthy self sacrifice, like you like sleep weird. And you like eat at a weird pattern. And like, you don't actually do all this stuff. So I think one of my, like, biggest coping mechanisms is saying, like, at the end of the day, I need to be like healthy and like able to do things and like not constantly dealing with like headaches and sleepiness. So like, I put myself first in a way that is very dramatic, and kind of difficult to describe. So like, if it's like 10, like my brain shuts off at like 10. So if it's like 10, and something is due at midnight, it's just gonna have to be turned in the next day, because I like, I don't believe that it's worth the sacrifice to really feel like there's a lot of the thing left to do. Like, it's just not worth it. I never been the kind of person who's like up at 3am studying, that's just not me. So I stopped doing that I am really good about like, if I want to take a nap, and literally I'll just take a nap and figure out what I need to do later. And it sounds like really, it's a really difficult thing to enforce in real time. Because it's like, I've had to ask for a lot of extensions, I've had to turn in things late. But I think sometimes, especially as minorities, we get this idea that like you have to like do things the difficult way. And I think the coping mechanism that I've allowed myself is to be like, I'm human, and I don't have to do things like that all the time. So if I need to ask for an extension, if I need to turn things in late, if I need to, you know, ask the TA for help at a time, that seems like really late in the day, I'll just do that. And the answer is no, it's a no and I'm willing to have consequences for that. But it's not going to come with personal sacrifice. I don't know if that's not it's not like a traditional coping mechanism. Like I drink water, I take bubble baths, but like it's something that's helped me a lot. I've just stopped putting schoolwork personally that is deeply detrimental to me.

Jeanine Ikekhua 5:00
That is, it's just it's kind of like crazy to me because it's like me, I'll be up till 3am. I'm going to go go go and whatever happens is gonna have to happen. Here you like put yourself first. I wonder how long did it take for you to get to that place? Like

Elizabeth Dogbe 5:14
It took a long time.

Jeanine Ikekhua 5:16
A long time? Like did a moment happen where you were like, no, like, Elizabeth, I have to do this, I have to put me first.

Elizabeth Dogbe 5:21
Yeah, so junior year was really rough for me. It's really funny because someone, in park, in the park program when I was like, either a freshman or a sophomore sat me down was like, for whatever reason, junior year is gonna be your worst year of college. And at the time I was like, Girl, this seems like, that's about you. When I got here. I got to my junior year, and I was like, I feel awful all of the time. And it's, it's affecting the way that I relate to people. And it's affecting the way that I like, I don't know, like it was it was just really, it got to a point where I was, like, so unhealthy, that like, it permeated like everything that I was doing. And I felt like I wasn't showing up as a good friend, I wasn't showing up as a good mentor for the people that needed me. Like I was just I felt bad all the time. And I was really tired of it. It- that's, I think that's when it started. Like I just that moment of like, I really just don't want to feel like this anymore, and feeling that, not to be morbid but like that can only go from really from two directions either you get better or you like, you figure out a way to stop feeling bad. So I just decided that I needed to get help, because it just wasn't like it just wasn't I couldn't do it anymore. An d then on top of that after quarantine started. I like the first fall semester. So I was on Co Op when things went online initially. So my first semester of having classes during COVID was fall 2020. And I started to having this thing where like consistently on Thursdays for whatever reason I would have like these horrifying migraines in the morning. So someone that was just like my body telling me like, Girl, we can't keep doing this. So the journey started junior year. And then like, it took me a while to like adapt, like adopt things that were actually healthy for me and like putting them into practice. And like that fall semester was really like a reminder, like, okay, you need to keep doing this, you need to keep working on this because you're, I like to say that, if you don't take the break, your body will take the break for you. And that's what's starting to happen.

Jeanine Ikekhua 7:16
So you talked about like you use the mental health center. How has that changed the way you deal with your mental health issues?

Elizabeth Dogbe 7:23
Yeah, I think I do a lot more emotional processing when I'm feeling things. My barrett- my or my counselor, I guess I guess your your counselors or my counselor likes to say that. It's not really, it's not really what you're doing. It's the why you're doing it. And so in moments where I like feel awful, or I'm like doing something that I know is unhealthy for me, I stop and I'm like, Okay, let's talk girly. Why are you doing this, like I do a lot of self talk, I do a lot of I do a lot of journaling, to like process my emotions. I think I'm definitely someone that like, I tend to bottle a lot of my emotions, because I don't think I don't trust myself to handle them in healthy ways. This is, is so like, I don't know, so embarrassing to admit. But I feel like I really, really have a temper like naturally, I think I'm like a very petty like, I don't have a healthy way of doing like issues in my life. So I think as a negative coping mechanism to that I just sort of like I just don't say anything because I, I know if I say something, there's gonna be a problem. So I just don't say anything. And I, that's not healthy for me. And it's not healthy for my relationship, because then that just builds a lot of resentment. So one of the things I've started doing to like cope is to start to process my emotions more, I start to write things down to their least out of my body. And that's a strategy that I definitely got from counseling. Yeah, so just a lot more analysis a lot more like thoughtfulness when I'm feeling something. And I don't always do that, like, it's really hard to do sometimes. And sometimes I'll just like, I don't know, I'll just eat my feelings and deal with it later. But I think most of the time, I've gotten a lot better about like, being more calm and more rational and processing what I need doing in the moment, instead of just sort of bottling or doing something reactionary and

Jeanine Ikekhua 9:05
unhelpful. Yeah, that's really important, honestly. Um, so you talk, well we're talking about like, the mental health center and going to counseling, what was the process like for you to start to go counseling, like, what did you have to do? You had to fill out a form, but you have to go to somebody some mystery man. Like, what was the process?

Elizabeth Dogbe 9:25
Yeah. So the Counseling Center is really nice about making it pretty straightforward to get help. So you just kind of walk in and say, like, I'm interested in getting counseling, and then they'll be like, awesome. Is this your first time at the counseling center? And you can say yes or no. So my first actually, I think I, I think I've mentioned I actually had 2 counselors. So the first time I walked in, and I was like, This is my first time getting counseling, I think I really need help. And so they sit you down. You'll have to, I think now they send you a link but obviously when I started therapy was in person so there's not any like standard computer I fill out a form talking about like what I was going through what I was feeling, they asked if you have a preference for counselor that you wanna work with. So I think both times you'll see that I want to work with a woman of color. I'm trying to think what else? So basically, it's some questions about just like where your mental state is, how are you feeling? What's wrong, if you can describe the problem that you're having, and then after you felt that out, they sit you down in the waiting room, and then you see a triage counselor that day. So I think something that a lot of people know about counseling is that you will see a triage counselor that day. They don't necessarily do like, I guess, typical, like your stereotypical therapy that first day unless you're really in crisis. That's more again, like they want you to be able to talk to somebody to describe what you're feeling in words. And then to make sure

Jeanine Ikekhua 10:44
wait, pause. not to cut you off. I just want to make clear, like the triage counselor that is like, the person that you're describing your feelings and emotions to on the first day.

Elizabeth Dogbe 10:53
Yes, yeah. So that isn't that will, that person won't necessarily be your permanent counselor, but it's just to make sure that you get face time with someone in case like, like, if you're really in, in crisis, like in that moment, they they'll serve as like an intermediate counselor sort of help to talk to you talk you down, get you connected to resources more immediately if you need it. But if it's something where it's like, I'm not in crisis, but I do need to see someone soon, the triage counselor, again, just shows us more data collection, asking you like, again, what the immediate issue is sort of getting like a person to evaluate you. Because I mean, the form is pretty comprehensive, but it's good to just like, get someone to get eyes on you and say, like, Okay, this is how urgent the student needs help, this is what they need, um, stuff like that. And they also get you connected to other resources in the meantime. So I think the second time that I did counseling, before I got connected to my counselor, it was maybe like two weeks before I got to see her. So in the meantime, I signed up for a workshop, and I think, a drop in group if I remember correctly. And those are just those just like, held me over in the meantime until I could see a one on one counselor. So yeah, so that's really across, I suppose. And the wait time will vary. I think right now, loads are really high at the counseling center. So it's a little hard to, to get one on one counseling. That being said, I think sometimes there's a lot of focus on one on one counseling, because that's what you think of stereotypically when you start therapy. But there are other, there are other resources that can be really helpful to you, even if you even if in the moment you don't think they are because I think when I signed up for the workshop, I was just like, okay, I'll just do this. And then, you know, I'll see my one counselor, but I think actually group therapy and like workshops have been a lot more helpful to me long term I growth. One on One counseling was good for like my cute problems. But I think like, for maintaining that growth and making sure that I was still on the right track and like having people to hold me accountable. group therapy did a lot for me. So yeah, so that's just like a quick aside, but um, yeah.

Jeanine Ikekhua 12:53
No you're good, we like long spiels. Get to educate those. We like that. Yeah. My last question for you is why did you decide to become a mental health Ambassador?

Elizabeth Dogbe 13:04
Yeah, so um, so the reason I decided to become a mental health Ambassador, I actually was one before I started doing counseling, I think, I think they might have like when I actually became one, and when I started counseling might have coincided a little but before I got into like, the cycle of therapy that I'm in now like the, after I got my second counselor, I got her after I was actually in MHA. But the reason I became one in the first place was Park, I think, I don't know if they still do this. But when I was a freshman, they brought in mental health ambassadors to talk about counseling, the Counseling Center, and there was a mental health ambassador who he graduated a while ago, but his name was Cody, I think his last name was Zane, but that might be wrong. I know for sure his first name is Cody. And he's like this, like really big, intimidating guy. And I remember he had like a chain from his pocket. And I was like, This person's coming to talk to me about counseling because like, in your head, you have like some stereotypical ideas of like, Hey, this is who seeks counseling. But Cody was like, really big and really gruff. And he was like, Look, sometimes you're just gonna need help. And counseling really changed my life. And I was like, well, I want to be able to have that impact on other people's lives. Because him talking about it and him like, and talking about what he'd been through and his struggles and like, how he got through it with the help of the Counseling Center, I think was really important for me, and I wanted to be able to do the same work because at that point, I had had some mental health issues. That at the time were on I didn't, I thought I resolved them, they were unresolved, but I wanted to be able to like, you know, educate people like me about what I've been through and where to get help. And that seemed like the way to do it. So I kind of I kind of attribute me getting to mha to Cody, because I don't think I could have I don't think I would have done it without like hearing him talk about the effect that it had on him. Yeah, I think it's important to hear from people who You don't stereotypically associate with going to counseling. It's good to hear from them about counseling because it really reminds you like anybody like it's, it could be anybody that needs help in it that anybody can be used. So, but yeah, that's why I got into it. I'm really grateful for him.

Jeanine Ikekhua 15:24
My second interview is miss Whitley grant, Miss Whitley grant facilitates a range of outreach spaces through prevention services, including the back and boundary drop in space, she used to provide therapy to students. She's currently the alcohol and other drug prevention coordinator for the prevention services. In this interview, we spoke about the unique relationship between mental health and black students at NC State. So my first question for you is, do you see a difference in the mental issues between black and non black students that you deal with because I know you said used to be therapy.

Whitley Grant 16:01
So in my current role, I'm not providing direct one on one individual mental health therapy, but I'm still a mental health counselor and mental health therapist. So I still do a lot of like events and different things like that, or webinars and workshops around mental health in the black community. But the main differences that I would see between black and non black students is more so differences between maybe black students and students who have like a majority identity. So for example, a lot of students in the black community might have my in the past might not have had access to resources, or if they went to some type of professional or medical or professional resource. What happened was, is maybe they had a situation where they they felt like the person wasn't culturally responsive. So sometimes what happens with mental health treatment is I see that it folks automatically associated with like medical treatment in general. So if you had a bad experience with like a doctor or something in middle school, or high school or when you were younger, then naturally you will be reluctant to seek support services as it was related to mental health. and rightfully so because it's like a systemic issue where you have a mistrust of certain support services. I also will say that some of the differences include like environmental or historical trauma that people might, black students might experiences that maybe other folks don't experience. So you have the systemic things like racism, classism, health, inequity, and all of those play into the mental health needs, specifically a focus on the black community. So these symptoms, the mental health needs are often oftenly. exasperated, and because they are may have this reluctance around seeking support, then the symptoms could become worse. And additional, in addition, it might be like some vicarious trauma so that maybe you experienced violence, a criminal injustice, but it might not be something that you directly experienced, because you had like a family member or a friend, or even thinking about everything that happened last year, with George Floyd and the racial trauma that black students experience. And even though that wasn't a direct thing that happened to you, as a black person it's that vicarious trauma and that you observe these things happening. So now you're like, hyper vigilant, maybe feeling super aware, hyper aware of how racism and things like what's happening in community, might impact you directly as a black student. So that's some of the main differences that I've seen in between black and non black students.

Jeanine Ikekhua 18:48
Yeah, um, we were talking about, like, how they, like the mental issues show up, there's a difference in the type of fundamental issues that they deal with. And I also wanted to know, because if there's a difference in the type of mental issues that they deal with, is there a difference in the type of signs or symptoms that they show? Because I watched, I listened to a podcast and it said that it was talking about depression amongst black women specifically, and it showed that like black women are less likely are more likely to show not the conventional typical symptoms of depression in comparison to like other people. So I just wanted to know, like, at what point should black students be seeking help for mental issues? Like what are the signs of the signs that they shouldn't be looking out for?

Whitley Grant 19:35
Yeah, so a lot of times when I see the way like, certain signs showing up and like students or black people is a difference is that not necessarily that you won't have the same symptoms of depression and anxiety, it's more so because you don't automatically think this is mental health related, then they might show up in other ways. So for example, a lot of times when it comes through depression, anxiety or other mental health symptoms, it can show up somatically, which means that maybe you have start having digestive issues like abdominal pain or bowel problems. And well typically you might associate that with like a virus or something like that, it really could be a sign that your body is dealing with depression, anxiety, or some other mental health symptoms. In addition to that, it could be more neuro- neurological. So maybe you could have headaches, dizziness, feeling weak, all of those things could be related to your mental health. Some other symptoms that I think are pretty common as it relates specifically to depression, are reduced appetite or weight loss, or maybe you're eating more, weight gain, or loss of interest in typical activities that you might have, have usually enjoyed, maybe you're sleeping too much or too little, really having a hard time getting rest and often feeling restless, difficult time concentrating in class or other activities that you're used to doing. And definitely the isolation piece where you don't necessarily find as much joy in spending time with other people. And you find yourself kind of feeling isolated and withdrawn. And then recurrent thoughts of suicide. And then just a difficult time even remembering, maybe something that you learn in class, or maybe you have a difficult time remembering. So even though those symptoms aren't necessarily like these are completely different. For black students, what tends to happen is you might not think that this is something mental health related, like when you're experiencing these things, you might just think, Oh, I'm in a bad mood, or I'm having a bad day or something like that. You might not realize when these types of symptoms happen persistently, it could be indication that there's something more serious going on there with your mental health.

Jeanine Ikekhua 21:54
So when the symptoms, the symptoms start showing up, at what point should a person start seeking professional help, because I feel like for black people, we have a tendency about oh, we can just like struggle and fight through it. Like we'll be fine in the end. But it's like, at some point, you might reach a point where you have to go seek professional help. How do you know that you're at that point?

Whitley Grant 22:15
Yeah, so one of the things that I was thinking about, particularly with this is I always tell people to seek services early. So like one or two things, I would suggest that students already Connect themselves with the Counseling Center and prevention services that we have spaces specific to black students. So I would say already, tap into those resources, so that you already are knowing what certain depression, anxiety and different symptoms look like. And then I will also say that, on the Counseling Center website, they have like some online screening tools that you can use. So even if you listen to this pod-, this this interview here, or maybe a student is listening to a podcast, like the one that you were listening to, and you hear some of those symptoms come up, maybe doing one of those quick online assessments to figure out is what I'm going through just a bad day, or is this more so related to depression. So I always encourage people to seek support early. But if you didn't seek it early, and now you're kind of already in that depressive state, you're needing help. Help, I would say to definitely tap into the Counseling Center, they can provide you with resources, whether they offer you individual accounts there be in the Counseling Center, or they can offer you a list of providers in the community that you can go to as well.

Jeanine Ikekhua 23:38
When you did your, you say you're a mental health counselor and that you provided therapy in the past, what type of resources did you provide to the people that you help?

Whitley Grant 23:47
Yeah, so with this, I helped I was, well, more, mainly I would do individual therapy with them. But I would definitely encourage I love to encourage my students to go especially my black students to tap into those group counseling spaces. Because one thing that is known for people in the black community is that we heal in collectivism we heal in community. So it just makes sense to be a part of some type of therapeutic space, where there are other people who have similar experiences for you. So I always tell students to tap into like those group support spaces so that you can maybe even hear stories of other people that can help you heal. I also think about some other resources that provide the students are just different ways to cope. So I tell students to start their morning each day with affirmations, positive affirmations to help to set the framework of the day. I always like to tell some of the students that I work with in the past to do like a coping playlist to help start their morning or evening situation when you're dealing with something stressful. You already have that playlist available to you so you can just kind of play it it can kind of help lift your moods. I definitely have told students to use apps that might help with like calming and breathing techniques. And then again, that support space. So just being able to have people in your space who can help just provide you with general support. So those are the things that's thinking about the black students that I have worked with in the past and even currently in drop-in spaces, I definitely recommend those things.

Jeanine Ikekhua 25:22
Um, my next question is about like the difference between being sad and depressed. I feel like we were just talking about oftentimes people see symptoms, and they're just like, oh, like, I'm just sad for a week, like, I'll be fine in the end. But like, I've always wondered, like, what is the difference between like being sad and depressed? Like, when do you know you have crossed that point where you're no more sad, but you are now in like, full depression?

Whitley Grant 25:43
Yeah. So we, you know, you have crossed that point is when you have consistent symptoms for like, at least a two week time period, right. So like, I tell people all the time, we're definitely gonna go to through ups and downs, right, you might wake up tomorrow, and you're just not feeling it, like your mood is off, you, maybe you're feeling some feelings of sadness. But if the next day, you're kind of back to your normal point, then that would just kind of be like maybe a routine day where you're feeling sad. But when you're feeling depressed, it's gonna be persistent symptoms of depression that I named before, like Weight Loss, or weight gain, not wanting to get out of bed, loss of energy, feeling worthless, helpless, not getting enough sleep or sleeping too much. And feeling withdrawn. If those symptoms last for at least like a two week period, there might be more, consistent two week period. And that means that might be more so related to depression and versus just having feelings of sadness.

Jeanine Ikekhua 26:41
You're definitely right. That's all the questions that I have for you. Thank you so much for allowing me to do this interview, it has been a pleasure.

Whitley Grant 26:50
No problem. And I do want to plug a couple spaces into this interview, if that'sokay

Jeanine Ikekhua 26:56
definitely. Please go ahead.

Whitley Grant 26:57
Okay. So a couple of spaces that we have in prevention services are called the blackened boundary with the, which is in collaboration with the African American Cultural Center. It happens on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month. And it's in we have some zoom, like a hybrid format, some zoom and some in person meetings. So the next in person space is on September 22, and it's located, it's going to be in the African American cultural center. And this is just a good space to be in community with other black students who have those collective experiences, and a micro who have experienced microaggressions, racial trauma and all the things and just being able to process with a therapist facilitating that space. And just being able to process and community with other black students, we also have The Collective, which is in collaboration with the Women's Center. And that happens on the second and fourth Thursday of each month from 5:30 to 7. And that space is for women of color. Women identified students of color. So again, there are a lot of support spaces here on campus that I would tell students just to tap into early. So you can already start building that coping and self care, meeting other students with collective experiences. And then also the Counseling Center has a host of various group spaces for students of color. And also it's very specific to black students. So I think it's just important when we talk about being preventative, to go ahead and tap into these resources early earlier. That way they can help to break that stigma of not wanting to seek resources because it's like, Okay, well, I've already tapped out into the Counseling Center. I've already been to a provision services program. So I'm already comfortable with the spaces so when I do need individual counseling, I won't have as much anxiety about what it might look like to talk to a counselor.

Jeanine Ikekhua 28:49
Yes, thank you so much for providing us with information. Our theme music for today's show was come over by MCI beats licensed under Music Archive. This has been Jeanine Ikekhua for WKNC radio. Thank you for listening. You can listen to more episodes of this show at wknc.org/podcast and tune in next week Sunday at 6pm to listen to more episodes.

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