Understanding the Experiences of Black College Students in the Current Era
Mental health concerns of college students are important due to their developmental and life stages and adjustment challenges they must navigate in a new and difficult environment. Compared to students of other ethnicities, Black college students in the United States have historically reported poorer mental health outcomes with higher risk for depression and anxiety than their non-Black counterparts (McClain et al., 2016; Mushonga & Henneberger, 2019). The African American activism work done by Black college students has become increasingly visible and influential since the creation of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and student protests aimed at improving university climates for minority students. Using Critical Race Theory (CRT) as a framework, this study investigated the roles of racial identity attitudes and sociopolitical attitudes on the relationships between race-related stress and mental health, and race-related stress and African American activism for Black college students in the U.S. The results indicated that increased race-related stress was associated with worsened mental health outcomes but increased engagement in activism, negative sociopolitical attitudes were related to poorer mental health, positive sociopolitical attitudes were related to decreased activism, and the six racial identity attitudes varied in their associations to mental health and activism based on racial centrality. The Internalization Multiculturalist Inclusive racial identity attitude was found to moderate the relationship between race-related stress and an indicator of mental health, and the Internalization Afrocentricity identity attitude strengthened the relationship between race-related stress and activism. The discussion addresses implications for future counseling psychology research and practice.