“We don’t get these kinds of services every day, so why now?”
That’s what a student said to guidance counselor Kason Dickerson about Mumford’s mental health resources after a student’s suicide last spring. He said after that traumatic event, Mumford’s atmosphere turned gloomy. That’s when counselors, teachers and social workers at the school started plans to make sure students would get their mental health needs met.
“I see a lot of trauma and a lot of post-traumatic stress,” Dickerson said. “And I think sometimes we don’t know that’s what we’re dealing with. I think that a lot of traumatic experiences seem to be the norm in African American communities.”
According to a study in The Journal of Community Health, between 2001 and 2017, suicide rates amongst African American boys ages 13-19 have risen 60% and rates have doubled for African American girls in the same age range. The study includes lack of access to mental health care as a contributing factor.
Mumford staff have made plans to provide students with more mental health services and therapeutic activities to combat the stigma of mental illness in the black community. The aim is to make it a regular thing so it will be easy for students to ask for help.
Dickerson said, “That’s kinda what we’re working on. We’re working on doing some group therapy with students in their lunch hour, and just providing more counseling in general.”
School social worker Kayla Pacic said although many students are receptive to getting help, she knows many others are resistant.
“So I still see that even getting help or feeling vulnerable, people still see that as a sign of weakness,” Pacic said. “I see a lot of the, you know, ‘I shouldn’t be doing this.’”
In addition to the programs staff are starting, Mumford has announced a partnership with Development Centers, which is part of the School-Based Mental Health Initiative funded by Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority. The Development Centers will provide an on-site clinical therapist and workshops on many behavioral health topics including anger and emotion management, coping skills, and signs and symptoms of mental health issues.