ARGOSY UNIVERSITY IS ON A MISSION TO TRAIN MORE BLACK, LATINO MENTAL HEALTH WORKERS
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – As a clinical psychologist and mental health worker with San Bernardino and Riverside counties, Dr. Benjamin Barnes saw first hand some of the psychological problems affecting Blacks and Latinos in the Inland Empire. “I saw a lot of cases of schizophrenia, depression and chemical dependency, or people with dual diagnosis (more than one illness),” he said.
Barnes has worked as both a college professor and a mental health provider. He became interested in the healthcare field after going through extensive physical rehabilitation from a car accident. Currently a professor at Argosy University/Inland Empire, Barnes said while working as a county mental health worker he became aware of the lack of African American and Latino psychologists.
“There were very few African American therapists,” he said. “Even now less than 15 to 10 percent of the therapists in San Bernardino County are African American. And we don’t have many bilingual therapists.”
An African American, Barnes is one of the ethnically diverse faculty members at Argosy University/Inland Empire who are dedicated to increasing the number of local Black and Latino mental health workers. Wendy Vasquez-Osborn, interim campus director, said the university’s Spring Quarter enrollment statistics show that more than half of the student population is Black and Latino.
Vasquez-Osborn said that Argosy University’s blended programs, which offer online, evening and weekend courses, are attractive to Black and Latino students in the Inland Empire who are often working full-time jobs. “Many students entered the workforce right after high school or had to raise families, and now they need a degree to move to the next level,” she said. “Our programs fit the needs of working adults.”
Barnes said many of Argosy University/Inland Empire’s faculty members have extensive backgrounds working with the Black and Latino communities and have spent many years working on the front lines of the mental health field.
Dr. David Sellen, a professor in the College of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, is involved in several local community groups including the American Red Cross, the United Way, Interfaith Council of Churches, Habitat for Humanity and the Foothills Family Shelter, a local homeless shelter. Sellen also works with law enforcement agencies in Critical Incident Debriefing, assisting victims recover from violent acts.
Barnes said the psychology profession is still predominately white and female, and this may cause problems for people of color who are looking for a mental health provider. “It puts up a cultural barrier, some minorities may believe that the therapists are not sensitive to their cultural needs,” he said.
He added that there is also a lack of awareness about mental health issues in the Black/Latino communities. Barnes said most Black and Latino college students go into the computer and business fields and shy away from psychology, because of the fear they may not get a job after graduating.
“They stay away from psychology because there is still a stigma about it in the Black/Latino community,” he said “That is the reason why Blacks and Latinos people often don’t use mental health services.” He also said that the Black and Latino community maybe unaware of the signs of mental health problems because they are accustomed to dealing with other stressful issues such as racism and unemployment. “Our definition of mental health stressors are different from the mainstream,” he said.
Barnes is currently in a master’s degree in psychopharmacology at Alliant University, and has master’s and doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from Fielding Graduate University. He teaches courses in Clinical Psychology at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels at Argosy University. Barnes also teaches at San Bernardino Valley College.
He said he is pleased to see the ethnic diversity in his classes at Argosy. “Argosy University has many programs making it visible in local high schools and colleges,” Barnes said. “The solution to boosting the number of Black and Latino psychologists is by reaching out to those communities through face to face marketing in non-traditional places such as community recreation centers, shopping malls, churches, sports clubs and public events.”
“Argosy University is going out and meeting people in their communities and neighborhood,” Barnes said. “We go out of our way to show we are wiling to help in anyway.” Barnes also stated that Argosy University is targeting potential psychologists earlier through associate and bachelor degree programs, which are attractive to high school students, and by talking to individuals in the health, business and education professions who want to move to the next level of their career.
For more information about Argosy University/Inland Empire, call (909) 915-3800 or go to http://www.argosyu.edu/inlandempire.
Argosy University/Inland Empire is one of 18 Argosy University (www.argosyu.edu) locations in 12 states. Argosy University offers doctoral and master’s degree programs in psychology, business, counseling, and education. Argosy University also offers bachelor’s degree completion programs in psychology and business, and associate’s degree programs in various health sciences fields. Argosy University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association (NCA) (30 N. LaSalle Street, Suite 2400, Chicago, IL 60602, 1-800-621-7440), (www.ncahlc.org).
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