New Door to Mental Health and Wellness Opens at ASU
By Hazel Scott/ASU
Alabama State University has officially opened a new and innovative facility designed to help promote mental wellness among the institution’s female students.
Acclaimed actress Taraji P. Henson visited the campus on Friday, April 14, for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the “She Care Wellness Pods,” a joint initiative by Henson, the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (BLHF) and Kate Spade New York in partnership with ASU.
The celebration featured a special panel of experts discussing ASU’s She Care Wellness Pods, as well as mental health issues that concern college-aged Black women. Panelists were Dr. Joyce Loyd-Davis, senior director of ASU’s Health Center; Taryn Bird, director of Kate Spade New York; and Be Dismond Sweet, director of Programs and Partnerships with The Boris L. Henson Foundation.
The event drew a large crowd of ASU students and members of the ASU Board of Trustees, along with city and state officials. WSFA-TV news anchor Valorie Lawson served as the facilitator for the ceremony which featured performances by the ASU drumline and the Honey Beez.
First HBCU Pods at ASU
Alabama State University is the first HBCU in the nation to be selected for the first-of-its-kind pilot program, which was created by Henson, along with BLHF executive director, Tracie Jade Jenkins.
BLHF and Kate Spade New York plan to place the She Care Wellness Pods on HBCU campuses nationwide, serving more than 25,000 Black women. The initiative’s vision also includes plans for “He Care” and “They Care” pods.
ASU President, Dr. Quinton T. Ross, Jr., said the new partnership will create more accessible mental health resources and support for Black women on HBCU campuses, especially at ASU.
“This initiative will help Alabama State University continue its commitment to mental health and wellness for our students, as we move forward to becoming world changers through the power of wellbeing,” Ross said. “This partnership speaks to the impact that Alabama State University has not only in our community but literally nationwide. These pods are lifesaving and life-changing for ASU students and the community.”
ASU has already gained national attention for the pilot program. Henson had promoted the initiative and ASU on the Today Show and other national news outlets leading up to the grand opening. A camera crew from BET also was on hand to film the ribbon cutting.
Nykiah Chavis, a sophomore criminal justice major with a minor in psychology, said she believes students will use the pods.
“There are many students who deal with mental health behind the scenes and don’t know who to talk to. I think these pods will be helpful in helping students take a mental health break, do some yoga, just relax,” Chavis said.
Senior Maya Pettway, an Early Childhood major, said college can be stressful for some and students need a place to de-stress.
“A lot of students go through mental illness at college. The pod will help relieve stress and allow them to be themselves and be in an environment with other students who are going through the same thing,” Pettway added.
The 83rd Miss ASU, Aleah Robinson, a graduating senior majoring in accounting, believes the pods are another stepping stone toward mental wellness.
“These pods… represent the importance of mental health in the African-American community, especially on HBCU campuses because college is where students are trying to find themselves,” Robinson said.
The foundation, which is named after Henson’s father who struggled with his mental health without readily available resources, was founded in 2018 to destigmatize the subject and provide services to Black communities.
Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that in 2021, almost 60 percent of female students experienced “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.”
Davis and Ross both agree that the pods will impact student retention.
“When you have a healthy mind then you are able to focus on your goal, which is your study. Our minds drive what needs to happen for us,” Davis said.
About the Pods
The two Wellness Pods are structures that will offer a variety of mental health resources for Black female students. Those resources include virtual and in-person therapy sessions, psychoeducation sessions, as well as yoga, art, and sound and dance therapy workshops. The pods also will serve as a place for students to rest.
“We are excited to provide this new facility with unique, state-of-the-art amenities and opportunities,” Ross added.
Loyd-Davis echoed Ross.
“This is an amazing opportunity for our students because the services are free. There is a list of modalities in the integrated space that will help them prepare their minds,” Loyd-Davis said.
Artists Rendering and Mural
The rendering and the pod mural were created by ASU student Jayla Poe, a senior majoring in A
As for her pod rendering, she said “I feel really great that my rendering has gone national. It’s a great opportunity as a student to get my name out there and shine a light on the school.” Her pod artwork will be part of her senior show coming up at ASU.
A large portrait of Poe’s mural was presented to Henson and representatives from Kate Spade New York.