Advocating for mental health equity

Reflections on the multi-layered pandemic experiences of Black college students


  • Jay P. Jefferson Florida International University
  • Trina L. Fletcher Florida International University
  • Brittany N. Boyd Morgan State University


mental health, education, pandemic, racial injustice, anti-racism, HBCUs, research article


The hydra of racism was ever-present in 2020. Historical inequities, which have long plagued major pillars of our society such as health, justice, and education, were exacerbated by COVID-19—which, when conjoined with the manifestations of institutionalized white supremacy and colonialism, served to disproportionately affect Black lives. However, there remains deeper consideration of the combined impact these intersecting, nationwide emergencies of COVID-19 and racial injustice have on Black college student mental health. This is particularly concerning given that college students are a vulnerable population for experiencing increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Black college students deserve to express an authentic sense of self in route to actualizing their success, and the intentional consideration of their mental health and well-being is vital to achieving this. Our reflection synthesizes the interrelation of these national topics to further contextualize the importance of valuing the psychological and emotional dimensions of Black college students' lived experiences as we aim towards broader progress regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education. We discuss implications for institutional leadership, such as considerations for improving mental health service utilization and the use of interdisciplinary research avenues tying together tenets of education and mindfulness approaches.

Author Biographies

Jay P. Jefferson, Florida International University

Dr. Jay P. Jefferson is a data analyst for the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at Florida International University (FIU). Before this, he completed a postdoctoral position in STEM education at FIU with research focused on student success and experiences at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as promoting the excellence of women and minorities within the STEM disciplines. 

Trina L. Fletcher, Florida International University

Dr. Trina L. Fletcher is an Assistant Professor of Engineering and Computing Education and a Faculty Fellow for the Division of DEI at FIU. She specializes in asset-based DEI research and continuous process improvement within STEM, engineering, and computing education. 


Brittany N. Boyd, Morgan State University

Dr. Brittany N. Boyd is a data analyst in the Center for Predictive Analytics at Morgan State University. Her research includes using qualitative and quantitative methodology to examine the experiences of primary through post-secondary education students and conduct program evaluations, with a focus on the impact of intervention programs and other support systems on the advancement and retention of underrepresented students.



How to Cite

Jefferson, J. P., Fletcher, T. L., & Boyd, B. N. (2022). Advocating for mental health equity: Reflections on the multi-layered pandemic experiences of Black college students. Understanding and Dismantling Privilege, 12(1), 34–53. Retrieved from