The Carruth Center is working to diversify its staff after an SGA assembly resolution emphasized the need for more counselors of color to improve mental health on campus.
“Any student who walks into the room should be able to relate to a person who they feel comfortable talking to or they feel understands where they come from,” said SGA Senator Amaya Jernigan, the resolution’s author.
Jernigan said it is not fair for students to be at the University and not receive adequate care or representation. By improving the amount of diversity within the center, it will result in a more inclusive environment.
Jernigan said now more than ever it is important for students to feel that they have someone to talk to because everyone is isolated.
“On top of that, the Black Lives Matter Movement happening right now and everything we are seeing on social media, it is traumatic,” Jernigan said. “It is a lot to digest, it is a lot to process and then to be living in a white-dominated space, it is crazy because you have to figure out how you are going to interact with the environment you are in.”
SGA Elections Chair Camryn Pressley, a contributor to the resolution, said that at the moment, there is a lot of stigma, not only in society, but also within the Black community when it comes to getting help and talking to a counselor — especially a white counselor.
“They don’t sometimes understand what we go through,” Pressley said. “The Carruth Center, for a long time, only had one Black counselor. I really think this resolution shines a light on having the need for a Black mental health worker.”
Both Jernigan and Pressely said that the Carruth Center has been supportive in working to create change in its facility.
T. Anne Hawkins, clinical director at the Carruth Center, said upon receiving the recommendations, the center has created a Black, Indigenous and people of color position that will specifically work with students of color to coordinate outreach activities and provide counseling.
“I think that diversifying our staff will absolutely make us a much more welcoming place,” Hawkins said. “I think that students of color want to meet with clinicians who have the same lived experiences that they do and we want to make that happen.”
Hawkins also said they will work to train the existing staff to ensure that they can deliver high quality and culturally sensitive care.
“Although they didn’t get it right the first time, they are trying their best,” Jernigan said. “I am not going to settle for trying, but they are actually putting actions behind their words and that to me is the most powerful thing.”
Jernigan said that every single entity has work to do when it comes to properly supporting diverse students across campus.
“The effort is there, but it is the follow through, what is actually being implemented,” Jernigan said. “How are we retaining our Black students? How are we treating our Black students?”