Methods: Data were collected from 356 undergraduate college students attending three universities: two historically Black colleges/universities (HBCUs) in the eastern region of the U.S. and one large predominantly White institution (PWI) in the southern region of the U.S. Due to previous studies comprising a small number of minorities, this study intentionally targeted HBCUs to obtain increased representation from Black students. Amongst the participants, 192 (54%) self-identified as White and 164 (46%) as Black. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 58 years (M = 21.72, SD = 5.31). The sample was primarily female (80%) and resided off-campus (57%). Most Black students reported attending an HBCU (82%) while the majority of White students reported attending a PWI (97%). All statistical analyses (e.g. chi-square, t-tests, and regression) were performed using SPSS 24.0.
Results: This study confirms the existence of a BWPMH within the college student population: Black students were found to display similar levels of mental health compared to White students. Results showed Black students (M = 20.99, SD = 6.55) reported significantly higher levels of self-esteem than White students (M = 18.42, SD = 5.98; t(354) = 3.87, p < .001). Additionally, White students (M = 68.46, SD = 10.92) reported higher levels of social support than Black students (M = 62.69, SD = 15.26; t(354) = -4.04, p < .001). Surprisingly, no significant racial differences were observed for spirituality between Black (M = 40.46, SD= 9.67) and White students (M = 39.92, SD = 7.82; t(354) = -.58, p = .56).
Conclusions and Implications: This is the first study to examine the BWPMH in college students. Given prior research surrounding the importance of mental health for college students and the stark differences observed in the experiences of Black and White college students, understanding the BWPMH is germane to promoting and sustaining flourishing levels of mental health. A discussion will focus on implications for research, policy, and practice.