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Sunday, January 29, 2023

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SDSU psychologist Ricky Pope (center) is joined by Derrick "Premo" Riddick Jr. (left), a rapper and author, and Joshua Hooper, a personal trainer, are photographed during a Barbershop Talks event. SDSU psychologist Ricky Pope (center) is joined by Derrick "Premo" Riddick Jr. (left), a rapper and author, and Joshua Hooper, a personal trainer, are photographed during a Barbershop Talks event.
 


Taking Care of Our MENtal Health

Resources at SDSU aim to destigmatize mental wellness and therapy for men
By JohVonne Roberts
 

With the double punch of finals week and the holiday season, high stress can put the “strong male” stereotype through its toughest mental-health test of the year, specifically for male students of color. 

 

From counseling to resources, San Diego State University offers several programs to help male college students balance the load of school and life while caring for their well-being.

 

Mental health issues impact people of all races, genders, and sexual orientations, however, the effects of mental health on men is often overlooked, according to the National Library of Medicine. 

 

“College takes a toll on my mental health because of all of the multiple factors that come with it in terms of school, student organization responsibilities, and keeping up with my social life,” said SDSU finance major Alija Hunter, vice president of Phi Beta Sigma. “And if during my only free time I have to talk to people all the time, I get tired easier and that leads to me being irritable, which then makes my mental state lower.”

 

Many college students can relate to this experience, studies have found. As college is seen as a time when students discover more about themselves, make lifelong friendships, and prepare themselves for their future aspirations, it is also a time when many students need mental health help more than ever.

 

At SDSU, the Black Resource Center is one of the many student support centers that promote safe spaces for students. Events, like the BRC’s Brother to Brother Luncheon and the Black Men’s Warrior Collective, can allow Black male-identifying students to engage in discussions about their experiences and to support one another.

 

The BRC also holds other related events such as the Black Women’s Healing Circle, Wellness Wednesdays, and Paint Talks. There is also Talk it Out, a drop-in service that provides students with an informal and confidential consultation with SDSU Counseling & Psychological Services counselors. Opportunities like these are so important because some college students have never had an outlet to be vulnerable and heard.

 

“The BRC has events that raise awareness of mental health issues because it's important for our community, especially due to the experiences of black men,” said Donnae Prather, the SDSU Black Resource Center coordinator. “Mental health has been taboo in our community, so it's important to have those spaces available for them.”

 

SDSU offers many programs and services through Counseling and Psychological Services. The Aspire Program gives students the opportunity to discuss with a counselor one-on-one about their lifestyle choices and family risk factors. The program is individually modified for each student.

 

Ricky Pope, an SDSU psychologist, makes sure to be a constant support system for the male population on campus. Pope provides mental health services through San Diego State’s Counseling Services and support through the Office of Restorative Practice.

 

With his involvement in the Young Men of Color Alliance (YMoCA), Pope is able to be a mentor to young men and guide them towards their sense of somebodiness. He said there is significant value in safe spaces for men, such as the Barbershop Talks event which included a day of food, music, and free haircuts.

 

“Men need spaces to feel like it's okay to just be themselves, where they don't have to put on a facade all the time,” said Pope. “To be able to create an environment to let your guard down and just breathe is so important to do.”

 

A complete college education includes learning more about one-self, not only book learning. For many students, mental health issues impact all areas of their lives and learning how to cope is very important for them to do.

  

“Journaling helps. Getting things off of your mind helps relieve stress from classes, homework, and organization work,” said Hunter, concerning what students can do to cope with their mental health issues. “Lean on your friends and family. That’s what we are all here for.”