Research in Nursing & Health Sciences

A Step Forward: Unraveling the Mental Health Tapestry of Students from the African Diaspora


By Olivia Munyambu

This study aimed to uncover how Black students coped with various stressors and the effects these coping strategies had on their lives. Mental health is presented as fundamental to an individual’s overall well-being. The study described mental wellness as an intersection of emotional well-being with functional aspects like relationships, personal control, and purpose in life. It also underscored the tight-knit relationship between physical and mental health.

The research adopted an indigenous wholistic theory, integrating elements of Afrofuturism and Decolonization theories to structure focus group sessions. Content analysis was employed to examine data collected during these sessions. The participants included undergraduate students who identified as Black or African American. Recruitment involved advertising across campus and through local multicultural clubs. Participants received incentives like Amazon gift cards, and their informed consent was obtained.


A sample of an ad for Olivia Munyambu’s focus groups


The results of this study could open the door for conversations and policy changes directed at making the university campus a more welcoming and supporting space for Black students. I focused primarily on mental health but remained open to any other health matters that may arise in discussion. Another goal was to learn more about if, and how, Black students come together to cope. I intended for the results of this research to spark an increased interest on the part of the faculty, student affairs (including but not limited to the counseling center), and the university administration towards developing and implementing effective methods, policies, and campus climate changes that will more effectively address mental health in a way that tailors to the unique experiences of Black students. I believe that in doing this, the university campus can become a welcoming place for students of the African Diaspora to express their mental health concerns without being demonized and harmed in their pursuit of wellness in a country that was designed to oppress them, and in which the oppressive mechanisms still persist today.

Participating in this study was an enlightening experience. Addressing student stressors is vital, and I’m glad to have contributed in some small way. The team took privacy and confidentiality seriously, which made the environment feel safe for sharing. Now, I eagerly await the outcomes and insights that this research will bring to light. I thank the Office of Undergraduate Research for giving me the opportunity to conclude this important portion of my research project.


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