Abstract: Behavioral Health at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: A Scoping Review (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Behavioral Health at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: A Scoping Review

Thursday, January 21, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Autumn Asher BlackDeer, MSW, Doctoral Student, Washington University in Saint Louis, MO
Sara Beeler-Stinn, LCSW, MPA, PhD Student, Washington University in Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO
David Patterson Silver Wolf, PhD, Associate Professor, Washington University in Saint Louis, St Louis, MO
Jen Van Schuyver, MSW, Research Assistant, Washington University in St. Louis
Background: Nearly one-fourth of all undergraduate degrees received by Black students are from a historically Black college or university (HBCU). Further, HBCUs exceed the national average for Black graduating students at any higher education institution and may hold unique keys to student success, behavioral health prevention, and student wellbeing. Historic surveys of substance use among college students are collectively limited as they consist of predominately white American students, despite the fact that there is sufficient evidence demonstrating how patterns of substance and alcohol use differ by race and ethnicity. Overlooking unique collegiate environments, such as HBCUs, possible differences in substance use patterns by young adults from historically underrepresented backgrounds may go undetected. This work seeks to examine present understanding of behavioral health practices and overall state of research at HBCUs.

Methods: We conducted a scoping review in order to gauge the existing body of literature in order to identify and map available evidence. Research criteria were developed and set to capture published, peer-review literature in the Ebsco database. Preliminary search criteria yielded a total of 252 articles published in peer-reviewed journals within the last 10 years, excluding dissertations and grey literature. The vast majority of the articles were excluded from the study based upon search criteria. As a result, 45 articles remained that met inclusion criteria. Note: all criteria and methods will be made available if accepted.

Results: Forty-five articles met the inclusion criteria related to behavioral health at HBCUs. The majority were cross-sectional, in class surveys with very few using longitudinal or experimental designs. Overall, it appears that HIV/AIDS risk and risky sexual behaviors are an emerging trending area within behavioral health research among HBCUs. Moreover, experiences of violence, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault have been investigated in their relationship to mental health and substance use among HBCUs. Other studies explored psychological wellbeing (stress, distress, dysregulation) and physical wellbeing. Finally, racial identity, political ideology, and discrimination experiences unique to Black students attending HBCUs were examined in relation to mental health and substance use.

Conclusion: Our scoping review revealed a fragmented research base measuring behavioral health among HBCU systems. No studies explored general prevalence or national studies representative of HBCUs. Further, few studies examined reductions in mental health outcomes or drug and alcohol use, most of these works measured general determinants and broad assessments of stress. In order to adequately address the behavioral health needs of Black students attending HBCUs, future work should seek to fill these gaps and further the development of scientific literature from HBCU systems.