HAMPTON, Va. - (September 18, 2020) – On Wednesday, September 3rd, The Hampton University Student Counseling Center held its first ever virtual event, “Deeply Rooted: Cultivating the Seeds of Emotional Freedom,” which discussed the historical context of mental health in America, with special emphasis on the role of mental health in the Black community. The keynote speaker was Amanda Seales, comedian, actress, singer, activist and mental health. There were almost 400 attendees for this program.
“Mental health is so important, especially concerning students in college who are in the midst of a vital time of their lives. It is also important during these unprecedented times we are living in with the global pandemic. This inaugural event with our Student Counseling Center was a great opportunity to encourage our students to have healthy conversations about mental health in the Black community,” said Hampton University President, Dr. William R. Harvey.
The purpose of this event was to explore the history of the heart, mind, and soul of minorities experiencing health disparities in America, and to teach students how to cultivate the seeds of emotional freedom. “I’m a true believer in the power of healing and emotional freedom, which can happen when we keep mental health in our discussions,” said Dr. Kristie Norwood, Director of the Hampton University Student Counseling Center.
The entire staff of the Student Counseling Center (SCC) was in attendance – virtually – for this free, inaugural event. They also gave away prizes to the people in attendance, which included Hampton University students, staff, faculty and others in the community. The prizes given out were donated by the event’s corporate sponsor, Legacy Builders Insurance and Financial Services.
Keynote speaker, Ms. Seales was very open and real in her discussion about mental health and the Black community. “In general, we underestimate the power of the mind, which is bizarre to me because all we do is think all day. We put a lot of effort into our physical form, our physiology, in making sure we are getting our health care taking care of. For the Black community in particular, we really just get on board with that. I think a lot of us can say that a lot of our family members who are not as open to going to doctors or being on top of their health, so when you add on mental health to that, it’s even harder to point out,” Seales said.
When asked how mental health care became important to Seales, she answered, “Mental health is something I’ve always been aware of, but I think there’s stigma that you’re fighting when it comes to therapy. There’s also just access. I never felt like I had access to a therapist that I felt could understand me as a Black woman. Also, I’m in a certain field. Being in entertainment, that’s a unique space that some people may not understand or be willing to understand the unique nuances of what I’m dealing with being such a public, visible person. I think for a long time, I took mental health to just mean me feeling crazy and dealing with it.”
Seales has starred in the HBO comedy series Insecure since 2017. She was also one of the co-hosts of the syndicated daytime talk show, The Real. Currently, she hosts a weekly podcast titled Small Doses and even has a book with the same title. The book is an extension of the podcast and contains essays, axioms, original illustrations and photos from her trademark “self-help from the hip” style of commentary.
Education is important to Seales. She graduated from SUNY-Purchase after high school and has a master’s degree in African-American studies with a concentration in Hip hop from Columbia University. She left attendees with some great advice about seeking and receiving higher education.
“Remember that your education is yours. A lot of us go to school and we are the first in our family to go. You might be beginning a legacy or carrying one on. Sometimes that pressure can feel like you are doing the work for someone else. Remember that when you leave Hampton, you’re the one living with that education. So curate your time, curate this special bridge from young hood to adult hood because when you’re out in the real world, they can take your name, your job, but they’ll never take what you know,” Seales said.
After Seales spoke, the SCC staff introduced themselves and opened up the event for an “Ask a Therapist” Q&A session about mental health, how to navigate mental health challenges while being a student, services that the SCC provides and more.
“As we continue to explore innovative means to meet students’ academic needs in general, and their socio-emotional needs during remote learning in particular, we were very excited to partner with our colleagues in the Student Counseling Center to sponsor ‘Deeply Rooted: Cultivating the Seeds of Emotional Freedom.’ I am confident that our program participants, and ALL Hampton University students, benefitted from the engaging and informative seminar. Approximately 398 attendees participated in the Zoom Session and an additional 411 people have already viewed the event online. Judging from the feedback in the chat room, Deeply Rooted was very well received and I look forward to partnering with Dr. Norwood’s team in Spring 2021 for the second installment in the series.” said Mikael Davis, Hampton University’s new Dean of Student Achievement. “Our offices would like to express our sincere appreciation to Dr. Barbara LeSeur Inman, Vice President for Administrative Services, who consistently promotes a collaborative culture throughout the entire Student Affairs Division. We also want to extend a heartfelt thanks to Dr. William R. Harvey, our University President, for his support of the first Deeply Rooted event in our mental health and wellness series.”
“Deeply Rooted was a true collaboration between several campus and corporate partners. I am very thankful for the technical expertise and exceptional videography services that we received from SparkDawn Media, a small women-owned firm based in Newport News, as well as the financial contributions that we received from Legacy Builders Insurance and Financial Services,” said Dr. Norwood. “We also have to recognize the contractual and logistical support that we received from Mrs. Doretha Spells, Vice President for Business Affairs and Treasurer, and Mrs. Denise Nichols, Assistant Vice-President for Business Affairs and Comptroller. Additionally, the Peer Counselor Student Organization President, Ms. Eva Davis and Ms. Taylor Battle should be commended for their participation and representation of the Hampton University student body during this event.”
The SCC team would like to thank President Dr. Harvey; Sparkdawn Media, the entire Division of Student Affairs; VP for Business Affairs and Treasurer, Mrs. Denise Nichols; and Media productions for their help to make this event possible.
The SCC team includes Mr. Alton Wampler (Licensed Professional Counselor), Ms. Cydnia Young (Social Worker), Mrs. Petra Gross (Licensed Professional Counselor), Ms. Treasure Wynder (Wellness Care Coordinator) and Lysa Traxx-Burianek (Administrative Assistant). Appointments for the SCC are made by phone; walk-in services are available dependent upon the nature of the crisis. For more information about the Counseling Center, call 757-727-5617 or visit http://www.hamptonu.edu/studentservices/counseling/.