SFA Counseling Services offers many different resources for students on campus. However, it does not have a black counselor.
After a Twitter poll circulated asking if there should be a black counselor involved in Counseling Services, students who responded to the poll were able to add their input on the issue. The poll ended with 66% of the votes going to the “Yes” option, 29% going to the “I don’t care option” and 6% going to the “No” option.
Robin Branch, a junior social work major from Houston, decided to create the poll after a friend was forced to leave the school due to mental health issues.
“I wanted to see what the students of SFA thought about it, not just my particular following,” Branch said.
“My ultimate goal was to get a black counselor on campus, and I know that it starts by just bringing awareness because a lot of students don’t even realize that it is a problem, especially if they are not black.”
One of the reasons Branch believes there needs to be a black counselor on campus is to help students feel more secure and heard. A black counselor would also be able to understand different nuances in black communities. The SFA Counseling Services departments main goal is to help students work through inner issues. A wider range of counselors may help a wider range of students. Counseling Services believes that diversity is important to achieve their purpose.
“We want people who know how to handle crisis and handle all kinds of issues that we see here,” Director of SFA Counseling Services Jill Milem said. “We don’t just look at expanding diversity, we also have to consider other qualifications. We would love to have a very diverse staff because we know that makes people feel comfortable.”
The last black counselor was active on campus between 2007 and 2012. Since they left Counseling Services, a new black counselor has been something the department has looked for. The SFA Counseling Services has to look into different credentials when searching for a candidate. However, they are always urging people of color to apply for positions on the counseling staff. Another probable reason for the lack of black counselors is location. Many graduates do not want to stay in Nacogdoches for their career.
“It is important because of representation, seeing people that look like you,” Jasmine Hassan, senior psychology major from Houston, said. “The negative mental health stigma of black people – if we don’t have representation it pushes that [idea] forward.”
Mental health services are available for SFA students every day. With the addition of representation, Counseling Services hopes to create a space for other students feel better represented and confident in the help they will receive from the service. While there are currently no positions open for a new counselor at SFA, the Department of Counseling Services implores counselors of all races to apply.