Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Meet Vanessa Volpe


volpe_activeminds_resized-150x150My name is Vanessa Volpe and I am privileged to be the inaugural Stephen C. Rose Legacy ScholarThe Stephen C. Rose Legacy Fund is an amazing organization that honors the legacy of Stephen C. Rose by promoting dialogue about mental health and supporting activities to build understanding and assistance for mental health among young people from their late teens into their early 30s.

I am currently a 4th year Doctoral student in Developmental Psychology at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. I want this post to be more of an introduction to my project than about me, but if you’re especially curious about my work and experiences, you can visit my website.

My project is situated within the Black community and specifically focused on Black undergraduate students attending PWIs (primarily white institutions). Why? Well…

  • Black young adults are likely to experience racial discrimination in their daily lives, an experience that is more salient at PWIs
  • Experiencing racial discrimination has consequences for Black young adults’ mental health, especially during the transition from high school to post-college
  • There remains a stigma in the Black community around acknowledging and seeking help for mental health difficulties. Ongoing cultural mistrust, past abuse of the Black community by White researchers, and the perception of strength and resilience evidenced by the Black community in the face of slavery may all pose barriers to seeking and receiving help today.
  • In spite of initiatives to increase diversity on college campuses and a movement inside and outside higher education to embrace multiculturalism, there is much that we do not understand about the mental health of racial minority students at PWIs

I will be examining gender differences in 1) self-reported depression and anxiety in the Black undergraduate student community, and 2) coping strategies employed in response to racial discrimination. I will attempt to see if the impact of specific coping strategies on symptoms of depression and anxiety differ by gender.

“There is this idea that we have to be strong and we have to endure all of the things that have been thrown on us in this country.” – Mychal Denzel Smith, from the video above

The following photos by Kimber Amadi are from the awesome 2014 “Behind the Stigma” public awareness campaign by the Black Students Health Association at UC Berkeley.

behind the stigma pics

If you’re experiencing mental health challenges as a Black individual you are not alone! Want to read more about mental health in the Black community? Here are some links:

No Shame Day: Working to Eradicate Mental Illness Stigma in the Black Community

National Public Radio: Mental Health in the Black Community

Black Folks and Mental Health: Why Do We Suffer in Silence?

What do you all think? Does this hold true for you? In your opinion, what needs to be done to address these larger issues and keep the Black community healthy?