‘Mental Health Mondays’
Mini-Grant Recipient Leads Charge Against Mental Health Stigmas
By Ashley Kilday
The President’s Lecture Series on Justice, Equity and Inclusion launched in 2021 with in-house and third-party experts joining UHD to discuss critical topics facing campus communities today. A key component of the series was to “build a more equitable and just environment through grant-supported, student-led outreach.” All University students were invited to submit a proposal for a mini-grant that would provide support and resources to design community programs focused on racial, economic, and social justice issues impacting members of the UHD student population. Six student projects have been awarded a mini-grant so far. Two of the project’s grant recipients, Kaethleen Siguenza and Lauren Parker, were covered in previous UHD News stories.
Today, we meet Taiya Youngs.
To describe Taiya Youngs as “involved” is an understatement. A senior in the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, she is set to graduate in May 2023 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a double minor in Communications and Critical Race Theory. In her “spare” time, she managed to rack up the following list of activities and accomplishments:
- She coordinated and presented several events for the UHD community, including the “Black State of Mind” (Fall 2019), which promoted mental health in the African American community; “Saving Superwoman” (Spring 2021), discussing “Superwoman syndrome”; and the “Black Women’s Empowerment Brunch (Spring, 2020).
- She held positions in various organizations on campus, such as Vice President of Texas Rising; President of Active Minds; Director of Health and Wellness for the Student Government Association; and Vice President of the Black Student Association.
- She has served as a Gator peer mentor since Fall 2019 and a supplemental instructor for two years.
- She's current president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. - Omicron Gamma Chapter, holding the highest regional position an undergraduate can hold within the sorority.
- She’s a member of several honors associations, including the Honors Program, Alpha Lambda Delta, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.
- She was named a 2019-2020 Rising Star by the League of Women Voters in Houston and has represented UHD in proceedings such as the Humanities Education & Research Association (HERA) conference.
Being active seems to be in Youngs’ DNA, starting with her role in her family of nine siblings. “I’ve always been a prominent, caring individual in my household, and I witnessed firsthand how mental health can affect one’s life directly and indirectly,” she said. Her desire to destigmatize mental illness led her to apply for a Student-Led Success & Equity mini-grant to support a project on the topic.
Youngs used the mini-grant to fund the event, “Gators Against Mental Health Stigmas.” Originally planned as a series of events during National Mental Illness Awareness Week in October, Youngs demonstrated her adaptability by shifting the project to what she called “Mental Health Mondays.” At Mental Health Mondays meetings, students and staff met to listen and learn. Youngs brought to bear her considerable research and resources, including mental health professionals within her sorority, and solicited support from Student Counseling Services. At the end, participants were asked to demonstrate their commitment to ending the stigma against mental health by signing a pledge.
“I was extremely excited and proud when Taiya and David [Ramirez] asked me to be their mentor for the Student-Led Success & Equity Mini-Grant because I know both students are passionate about the work they do at the University,” said Fard Rollock, Program Coordinator for UHD’s Men of Color Success Programs and mentor for Youngs’ mini-grant project. “When Taiya mentioned it would be a series on mental health, I wanted to make sure that I supported her in every way possible because I know mental health is something she personally feels passionate about.”
Youngs described her mental health activism as a deeply ingrained passion. “My goals after graduation are to get my Ph.D. and create a bridge between social work and psychology. I would like to have community centers with mental health clinics in low-income neighborhoods,” she said.
As an advocate for civic engagement, Youngs believes in bettering her environment by getting involved firsthand. “I am happy that I was given the chance to share with my UHD community. The attendees’ feedback reflected that my efforts were not only needed but desired. I want to see UHD do more around mental health awareness and education, and my ultimate goal before leaving UHD is to pass on my love for collegiate success to as many students as possible.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.