Feb. 14, 2022

More mental health support needed for Black grad students

Panel discussion on Feb. 16 explores personal trials of navigating academia as a Black woman and how we can do better to support Black mental health
From left: Speakers Bukola Salami, Tito Daodu, and Kome Odoko.
From left: Speakers Bukola Salami, Tito Daodu, and Kome Odoko.
Danielle Cattani

Danielle Cattani

Many graduate students face mental health challenges every day. However, the challenges are even more unique for Black graduate students.

Danielle Cattani is a multiracial Black woman and a current Master of Science student at UCalgary. She’s also events co-ordinator of the Medical Science Student’s Association. She is helping to plan Let’s Talk About: Black Canadian Mental Health, a panel discussion being hosted virtually by the Graduate Students’ Association and partners on Feb. 16, 2022.

Speakers will talk about mental health within the Black academic and medical community and will share their personal trials and tribulations of navigating academia and medicine as a Black woman. They will also discuss mental health barriers and how we can do better in supporting Black mental health moving forward. 

Growing up as a Black woman and a second-generation immigrant from Jamaica, Cattani says she was taught she needed to work twice as hard as her peers to achieve her goals. After facing years of discrimination from teachers and fellow students, on top of the added mental health challenges, she knew navigating academia as a Black woman would be difficult.

Study reflects personal experiences on campus

Experiences of isolation and discrimination as a Black student within academica are not unique to Cattani. Recently, a study by UCalgary professor Dr. Patrina Duhaney, PhD, Faculty of Social Work assistant professor, and colleagues looked at accounts of anti-Black racism at UCalgary. They noted that 67 per cent of non-faculty staff respondents reported having witnessed accounts of anti-Black racism at the university. Furthermore, 68 per cent of Black student respondents pointed to poor representation of Black professors at the university.

Cattani says her developmental psychobiology lab has been a safe haven and vital support system throughout her studies. In past academic settings, she faced inappropriate comments about her Jamaican heritage from colleagues, discriminatory comments from other students, and microaggressions. As a Black woman in academic settings, her daily fears are different from the norms. She thinks more can be done to improve access to mental health resources for Black grad students.

Opportunity to learn more about lived experiences

She encourages other graduate students and the community to attend the event to hear about lived experiences of Black women in academia. “As a Black woman in academia, I am motivated to share my experiences so others will come to recognize the difficulties that accompany being a Black individual at a Canadian university,” she says.

“I also want other Black students to know that they are not alone in what they are going through. As a community we face these injustices, and together we can heal.”

Register for the event. 

More resources

Scarborough Charter

UCalgary recently pledged to further its commitment to creating a more equitable, diverse, inclusive and accessible campus by joining 40 universities, colleges and partner institutions nationwide in signing the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion. Among the foundational commitments made by President Ed McCauley were collecting, analyzing and disseminating disaggregated data on faculty, staff and closing the gap on Black underrepresentation at all levels.

The University of Calgary is committed to an equitable, diverse and inclusive university. It recognizes that diverse faculty, staff, students and alumni benefit and enrich the work, teaching, learning and research experiences of the entire campus and broader community. We are committed to removing barriers that have been, and continue to be, encountered by equity-deserving groups, particularly women, Indigenous Peoples, visible/racialized minorities, persons with disabilities and LGBTQ2S+. For more information, visit the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.