In the wake of the isolating COVID-19 pandemic, many communities in Indiana were left with higher percentages of mental illness and subsequent, and sometimes fatal, symptoms. More than one in five Hoosiers experience mental illness according to 2023 reports, and more than 1,000 have died due to suicide each year since 2016 according to a report from the CDC. Finding access to adequate treatment for mental illness is a challenge due to internal and external factors, and some communities are more at risk than others.

People of color in the Indianapolis area have higher barriers to accessing care due to social stigma, financial concerns, and a lack of diversity and cultural competence within healthcare providers.

In an effort to mitigate these issues and provide necessary and life-saving healthcare to Black and African American people in Marion County, Dr. Tya Arthur—assistant professor of Public Health at Ball State—began a community-based project titled “Mental Health Education for Blacks and African Americans through Pipeline Generation and Community-Based Interventions” and gained the necessary funding from the Indianapolis African American Quality of Life Initiative (IAAQLI).

The goal of the grant project is to develop a pool of Black undergraduate and graduate students trained as mental health providers to provide direct mental health services while completing their internship and practicum requirements for graduation. The grant term ends in May 2025, allotting for two academic years of work.

In August, the students for this term participated in training covering trauma-informed care, self-care, burnout prevention, and anti-oppressive practices and cultural responsiveness. This year, there are 11 graduate students in the Master of Social Work and the MS/MA in Sport and Exercise Psychology programs participating in the grant project.

Telehealth services can be a very convenient resource for these communities. The grant will also offer telehealth access sites at community locations like the Indianapolis Public Library, YMCA, Gennesaret Free Clinic and the Bonner Center—services led by the Counseling Practicum Clinic here at Ball State. As health education and medical services continue to advance, we hope to offer services that extend to communities without access to safe, proper, and necessary healthcare.

Counseling Practicum Clinic telehealth set-up which will be used to provide services to those in need.