Grant Will Promote Students’ Mental Health While Showcasing Their Creative Talents

November 16, 2012


Cheyney University’s University College recently received a $7,500 Behavioral Health Capacity Expansion Mini-Grant from the Morehouse School of Medicine’s HBCU Center for Excellence in Behavioral Health, announced Nancy L. Jones, Vice President for University Advancement and External Relations. The grant will fund a project called Using the Creative Arts to Promote Behavioral Health and Community at Cheyney University. The project, now underway, involves the development of student behavioral health workshops led by area psychologists and attended by students who will use the issues discussed as the creative basis for the chance to compete in a Cheyney version of America’s Got Talent – Cheyney’s Got Talent.

University College Executive Director Dr. Robin Williams explains; “Using artistic expression to address mental/emotional health is professionally validated.” According to the American Psychiatric Association, she says, “Issues of distrust in the health care system and mental health stigma frequently lead African Americans to initially seek mental health support from non-medical sources. Often, African Americans turn to family, church and community to cope.”
The program will be coordinated by Student Wellness Specialist Lorna Best, who explained that the impetus for this project is the value of art therapy.  “According to the American Association of Art Therapists,” Best says, art therapy is “the therapeutic use of art making, within a professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma or challenges in living, and by people who seek personal development. Through creating art and reflecting on the art products and processes, people can increase awareness of self and others, cope with symptoms, stress and traumatic experiences, enhance cognitive abilities, and enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art.”
While there is a strong psycho-social underpinning for the project, it is designed to be an enjoyable and informal way for the university to work toward promoting emotional well-being among students. The actual competition should generate a lot of attention and enthusiasm, paving the way for more activities to come. In fact, Cheyney’s Got Talent is an outgrowth of activities funded by this grant in 2009.
Thanks to support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Morehouse School of Medicine has funded these mini-grants; Cheyney University successfully applied to this RFP in 2009. Ms. Joan Trent is the Program Coordinator.  HBCU-Center For Excellence in Behavioral Health at the Morehouse School of Medicine, Dept. of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences stresses the significant value of lessons learned and data collected from these grants over the years.
Details about the Cheyney’s Got Talent competition will be forthcoming.