AU’s new wellness program has been criticized for omitting the LGBTQ+ community

American University’s new Center for Well-Being Programs and Psychological Services — a revamped version of the former Counseling Center and former Health Promotion and Advocacy Center — is a new service on campus that some students say will support the proposed ” confirming space” and “just order” Gates.

The former counseling center that faced complaints across campus as a student fought Finding adequate and supportive care raised concerns that led to the transformation that some members of the AU community are still unhappy with.

According to a, DC has the largest percentage of LGBTQ+ residents per capita in the United States to learn from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. AU is too known as the most liberal school in the country. The university has been criticized by many on campus for falling short in providing services to its LGBTQ+ community.

The new center was announced on August 19 and is now called the Center for Wellbeing Programs and Psychological Services. Some LGBTQ+ faculty and students are dissatisfied with the new services and are concerned about the center’s failure to emphasize LGBTQ+ mentoring, representation and adequate resources.

“You can change it as much as you want, but if you still don’t meet the needs of LGBTQ+ people, there’s no point; You’re just wasting money and time,” said Rohan Singh, Junior in the School of International Service and Treasurer of AU Pride.

Students with marginalized identities require a variety of well-being resources and experience significantly higher levels of psychological distress compared to others research until American Psychiatric Association. It found that LGBTQ+ individuals are more than twice as likely as straight men and women to experience some mental disorder in their lifetime and are three times more likely to experience depression, anxiety and substance abuse compared to others.

About 21 percent of Generation Z Americans — those born between 1997 and 2003 — identify as LGBTQ+, according to a study by Gallup. The majority of AU’s undergraduate class is Gen Z.

The center, which offers an extensive range of campus-wide mental health resources, groups LGBTQ+ individuals into one category at the end of a list of its services. The center states that this category is for “students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other students who are grappling with their sexual and/or gender identity.”

Allen Flint, a sophomore at the School of Communication, said there should be support groups for specific identities because “being a lesbian or trans or being an ace are all different experiences,” and that the program wouldn’t have a single group that “overlooks the significant needs of individual LGBTQ+ students.”

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Flint said LGBTQ+ people are not a monolith and there is a variety of identities within the community. He said he was disappointed with the one LGBTQ+ therapy group the wellness center offers, which is “not enough”.

Singh said the university is not doing enough for LGBTQ+ students, noting that the approach is insensitive and detached from the individual needs of each LGBTQ+ person as they are not all the same.

“In terms of understanding LGBTQ+ people as individuals with needs and the blending of those different identities, the program doesn’t cover it at all, it’s more of a one-size-fits-all approach,” Singh said.

“There are other areas at the AU that have support groups for this community,” said Jacquelin Darby, the center’s director of outreach and prevention services. “If we can’t have that need, then maybe [the Center for Diversity and Inclusion] can be for their coffee breaks or their first Fridays or other groups on campus where you can also talk about your identity off campus.”

But that need should be filled by the new center, according to student critics, who said disaffected LGBTQ+ students are referring to it CDI continues to disregard community calls-to-action.

Bo Belotti, the administrative coordinator of rainbow familiesa DC nonprofit that provides resources and educational programs to local LGBTQ+ families advocates for colleges to offer a variety of mental health resources to LGBTQ+ and marginalized communities, and stresses the downside of lumping them all into one category.

“Offering a type of specialized care that lumps all LGBTQ+ people together is inherently problematic,” Belotti said. “A variety of resources are necessary as different sub-communities within the queer community require different types of care. A trans person will have a very different experience of queerness and mental health needs than a lesbian woman.”

According to a meager on college students from the Trevor project. The study surveyed approximately 34,000 LGBTQ+ youth ages 13 to 24 in the United States and showed that students with access to extensive college mental health services were 84 percent less likely to attempt suicide in the past year than those who did not have access.

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“We need a variety of services for multiply marginalized students,” said Tanja Aho, a professor in the Department of Critical Race, Gender & Cultural Studies at AU. “The students I work with are typically queer and disabled, queer and neurodivergent, queer and colored students, queer and first-[generation] Students, and their experiences aren’t all the same just because they happen to be LGBTQ+.”

Aho said this one-group approach is unfortunately common, as schools “tend to underresource several marginalized groups of students” and “do not take into account the numerous structural barriers these students face.”

Aho emphasized the university’s tendency to implement one size fits all in decisions such as creating bathrooms for all genders. AU’s strategy was to “create one bathroom that serves everyone, but there are a lot of LGBTQ+ students who need a lot of bathrooms,” Aho said. “It’s not okay to just create one bathroom that serves us all; We need several different bathroom options.”

“We see this kind of reducing all the differences into one space where it’s like, ‘Here’s this one group we’re giving you, or here’s this one bathroom we’re giving you,'” Aho said. “It’s a cost-effective, damaging strategy that doesn’t address the multitude of needs that many marginalized students have across campus.”

Aho noted that LGBTQ+ mentoring is an add-on and not a fundamental center of the program. Calling this problematic, they stressed that the university is “addressing the needs of multiply marginalized people” as “a complement to what is already in place”.

Representation is a pressing concern for LGBTQ+ students and faculty in relation to the new program as the majority of the center’s staff are non-LGBTQ+.

The district has a higher LGBTQ+ population than any other state in the US, at almost 10 percent, according to data from the Williams Institute. About 11 percent of DC adults in the district said they identify as either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to a recent study report from the DC Department of Health.

Darby said four of the center’s 30 employees identify as LGBTQ+. However, a 2018 to learn from the National Center for Biotechnology Information shows that mental health treatment for marginalized groups is more effective when it is consistent with the client’s culture and when the client feels represented by their therapist.

The intersection of “mental health and culture” must “be considered by the psychiatrist” in order to “effectively engage” patients, according to the study. However, the new center seems to be falling behind.

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“Being LGBTQ is exclusionary and incredibly lonely,” Belotti said. “We need a lot more therapists who are queer, and we need a lot more therapists who aren’t of color — that representation is very important.”

LGBTQ+ youth who have access to spaces that affirm their sexual orientation and gender identity had significantly fewer suicide attempts research from the Trevor project.

“Demand for this space is rather low,” Darby said. “We are struggling to fill this space because students are not registering for the group. That’s why we’ve limited it to an LGBTQ+ group. People don’t sign up.”

Although the vast majority of college students, nearly 90 percent, said their school offers mental health services, they reported access issues such as discomfort due to group-only resources, long waiting lists, and privacy issues research from the Trevor project.

“Most counselors are not queer and do not share the lived experiences of marginalized queer people,” Aho said. “Typically, when it comes to one-size-fits-all programs, the one-size-fits-all program has not been developed from the perspective of multi-marginalized students such as queer, neurodivergent, or disabled students.”

Darren Paul-Vance, Rainbow Families Managing Director and Mental Health Associate

Rainbow Families, who works in access care, said affording services isn’t easy and he “forgoes the cost entirely” or at least finds financial resources for LGBTQ+ clients who struggle each year to afford services.

“You have to have money to be able to afford a doctor’s visit,” Aho said. “[The Academic Support & Access Center] constantly and chronically understaffed and underfunded, they also have a high turnover rate because we don’t pay our employees enough.”

ASAC works to “support the academic development and educational goals of all AU students” and says they are committed to promoting access for people with disabilities within the university’s diverse community.

“AU stands out because it doesn’t do the best job of making mental health resources easily accessible and non-intimidating,” said Marielle Dorsey, a student at SIS. “No one wants to explain personal things to a stranger. We have such a large LGBTQ+ community; The AU must strive to provide many more resources to marginalized students.”

This article was edited by Nina Heller, Jordan Young and Zoe Bell. Editing by Isabelle Kravis, Leta Lattin, Sarah Clayton and Stella Guzik.

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