The pandemic has already pushed the stress level high for so many of our students–they are worried about finding jobs, paying bills, and having a meal on the table, while at the same time trying to learn virtually. So, adding another layer of racial trauma has increased the stress and anxiety even more dramatically.
So what can we do to support our students?
- Understand our own biases, beliefs, privileges, and responses. Understanding our implicit biases and the way that we think about certain issues is so important if we want to truly be able to help students. There are many resources where we can reflect on our biases, including taking the Project Implicit Test to understand ourselves better.
- Create a safe campus environment. From academic advising offices to the lectures in the classroom, we need to make that all staff members are aware of their beliefs and understand the current racial issues happening, as well as ensuring that classrooms and offices don’t tolerate an environment that is racist. We also need to acknowledge that what is happening in this country is not right and that it needs to be corrected.
- Emphasize the importance of self-care. Now more than ever, self-care is so important as there are many factors in our lives that are stressing us out. It is also important to check in on others’ well-being. We are virtual, which makes it more difficult to read people’s expressions and understand how they are feeling as many of us hide behind the screens. If people don’t open up, be the first one to do so, and hopefully, others will join the conversation.
- Continuous check-in. With the virtual and online environment, we feel that we are very far away from each other and very separated. Some students may feel that they are the only ones going through fear and worry around racial trauma, especially after what they hear in the media or witness in person. Therefore, it is crucial to continuously check in on those students either via email, sending them constant reminders that you are there to help, setting healing circles, and meeting with them.
- Refer as needed. It is very important to validate and de-escalate emotions when possible. However, some students may have experienced complex trauma and many need additional support. So, referring them to the campus counseling center would help them to further identify and express their emotions.
- Empower students as leaders. Students can feel more supported when they are engaged in their community. Encourage them to support other individuals who are going through the same emotions on their campus or in their community. Empower them to promote well-being and to advocate for equity.
Providing a safe environment for students on campus is very crucial so students can talk about their feelings and being forward any concerns that they might have.
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