The University’s Multicultural Health Program(MCHP) has been providing UNC students of color a place to be heard since 2020. Entering another school year, MCHP has plans to continue supporting the University’s diverse campus life.
The program is run through 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 heard the voices of student advocates while creating MCHP, and that those same voices inspired her to take on the lead role in the program.
“Students had been giving messages to CAPS for a long time of ‘we need more diversity, we need more representation,’ but it reached a fever pitch, and we as staff couldn’t not hear that,” she said. “Student activists and advocacy ignited our own passion and power.”
That passion and power lies in a team composed of Scott and four other providers, who each have their own unique backgrounds and identities. Scott said getting connected 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 place.
She said she believes that a college campus is one of those places.
“That’s when they are trying to form their identities,” Chung said. “I’m from Taiwan, I’m Asian, so I understand how that identity is so complex with immigration and a different ethnic background. That’s why I really want to be kind of like a guide.”
For students, the idea of having guidance during their time at college is important. Junior Sai Somana hasn’t used the program, but believes it is valuable to have therapists who understand the experience of students of color.
“Knowing that I could talk to someone with a similar background, whether it’s my ethnicity or my race, I think that’s good,” Somana said. “I would definitely feel more comfortable and I hope that that's the same for other students as well.”
At MCHP, therapy comes in different forms. The program offers a variety of services to meet student needs, including individual and group therapy.
Scott said group therapy is often focused on specific topics or other identities, such as exploring the intersection between identifying as both a person of color and a member of the LGBTQ+ community. She said these therapy options give students a chance to embrace their identities holistically.
“Part of what we thread into a traditional counseling session is tips and tricks to sort of advocate, speak up, find community,” Scott said. “Community building is a huge part of what we do.”
Outside of therapy services, MCHP engages with students through outreach initiatives. The program has formed 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 a lot of different relationships with professors, TAs, RAs and sometimes those people need to be the ones with the information to help students get through the door.”
MCHP also hosts workshops addressing a new topic each month. This past spring, it 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 a 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 hosting new workshops. Scott said, this fall MCHP is looking to address topics including imposter syndrome, self-care and accessing 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.
Though the program is looking to grow and evolve, one message stays the same: "I really want them to know they are not alone, and we are here for you,” Chung said. “We are here to hold a space for you to come here and be vulnerable and process any type of mental health journey that you’re going through.”
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