It’s time to start decolonizing methods of mental wellness

Image by: Tessa Warburton

Mental wellness isn’t a one-method-fits-all system—especially for people of colour (POC). 

It’s essential for the university mental wellness system to move away from painting everyone seeking support with the same brush, and, instead, to start diversifying their approaches to mental health. This starts with hiring counsellors with a diverse range of backgrounds. 

While many institutions claim they already possess mental wellness services on campuses that are accessible for all students, in reality, these services are often insufficient for a diverse student body. 

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, many immigrants, refugees, and members of distinct ethnocultural groups experience discrimination, language barriers, and a sense of displacement. These factors can greatly affect one’s mental wellbeing, but they aren’t always issues that are well-represented or addressed by white counselors. 

When we talk about mental health, we usually picture attending one-on-one therapy sessions. The mental healthcare methods commonly practiced in the West are developed in the contexts of Western philosophical, scientific, and religious traditions and values. These traditional psychological interventions are based on the characteristics of individualism, a concept where individuals are believed to be capable of changing their circumstances by themselves. 

In a stark comparison to that individualism, many non-Westerners live in collectivist societies, meaning priority is placed on helping a group of people rather than just one individual. That’s what’s most familiar to find in our methods of care. The development of interpersonal relationships within these communities is used to provide support for those dealing with traumatic experiences. 

Considering how many different people seek mental health resources at universities, it’s not reasonable to expect people of colour and immigrants to benefit uniformly from only attending therapy sessions. 

Instead of sticking to Western methods of counselling as a blanket solution, universities should start having open conversations with affected communities about including collective methods of counseling to better support the students who stand to benefit from this approach to mental health. 

We need to start decolonizing mental health in order to see truly effective results when seeking to improve POC’s mental wellness. 

By simply allowing the current mental health system to dominate campus counselling resources, some people of colour are being denied the supports they need to thrive.

As it stands, this system isn’t equipped to account for diversity in experience and adapt to students’ needs. 

Students who stand to benefit from more collective forms of mental health treatment should be given that opportunity to come together and collectively heal.  

Sydney is one of The Journal’s Assistant News Editors. She’s a second-year political studies student.


counselling, diversity, Mental health

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