The University’s Multicultural Health Program (MCHP) has provided UNC students of color with a place to be heard since 2020. Entering another school year, MCHP has plans to continue supporting diverse campus life of the University.
The program is run through the Counseling and Psychological Service, the University’s primary student mental health service.
MCHP was started by CAPS after recognizing the need for a culturally responsive mental health service for students who are BIack, Indigenous, and people of color.
Erinn Scott, the program’s assistant director, said CAPS listened to the voices of student advocates during the creation of MCHP, and that those same voices inspired her to take the lead role in the program.
“Students had been messaging CAPS for a long time that ‘we need more diversity, we need more representation,’ but it reached a fever pitch and we as a staff couldn’t hear that,” she said . “Student activists and advocacy fueled our passion and power.”
This passion and power resides in a team comprised of Scott and four other providers, each with their own unique background and identity. Scott said connecting with a provider starts with a regular initial assessment through CAPS, which then works to match students with the right MCHP provider.
One of those providers is Susan Chung, a clinical social worker who has been with the program since December. As a member of the Asian American community, Chung said she understands the challenges of being an ethnic minority in a new country.
She said she believes a college campus is one of those places.
“That’s when they’re trying to form their identities,” Chung said. “I’m from Taiwan, I’m Asian, so I understand how this identity is so complex with immigration and a different ethnic background. That’s why I really want to be like a guide.”
For students, the idea of having guidance during their time in college is important. Junior Sai Somana has not used the program, but believes there is value in having therapists who understand the experience of black students.
“Knowing that I can talk to someone with a similar background, whether it’s my ethnicity or my race, I think it’s good,” Somana said. “I would definitely feel more comfortable, and I hope it’s the same for the other students.”
At MCHP, therapy comes in many forms. The program offers a variety of services to meet the needs of students, including individual and group therapy.
Scott said group therapy often focuses on specific topics or other identities, such as exploring the intersection between identifying as a person of color and a member of the LGBTQ+ community. She said these therapy options give students a chance to embrace their identity holistically.
“Part of what we convey in a traditional counseling session is tips and tricks for kind of advocating, talking, finding community,” Scott said. “Community building is a big part of what we do.”
Outside of therapy services, MCHP engages with students through outreach initiatives. The program has established liaison relationships with campus organizations such as Carolina Housing, undergraduate and graduate schools, and several cultural centers.
Scott said these partnerships give students more opportunities to discover MCHP and find the help they need.
“I want to help students get through the door,” she said. “Students have many different relationships with professors, TAs, RAs, and sometimes these people have to be the ones with the information to help students get through the door.”
MCHP also organizes workshops that address a new topic each month. Last spring, he hosted a series of workshops specifically for graduate students who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color. These programs gave graduate students a space to talk about everything from building confidence to maintaining healthy relationships during their time at UNC.
With these efforts, MCHP won a UNC Diversity Award for Intergroup Collaboration in 2021, just one year after its inception. The award recognizes groups and programs that bring together multiple perspectives in order to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion on campus.
This year, the program aims to continue holding new workshops. Scott said, this fall MCHP is looking to address topics including imposter syndrome, self-care and access to mental health resources.
Scott added that MCHP’s other goals include hosting more in-person events and adding a sixth member to its team in order to increase student access to care.
Although the program seeks to grow and develop, one message remains the same: “I really want them to know that they’re not alone, and we’re here for you,” Chung said. “We’re here to hold a space for you to come here and be vulnerable and process whatever kind of mental health journey you’re going through.”
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