WSU system debuts observance of National Day of Racial Healing

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Washington State University will observe the National Day of Racial Healing on Jan. 17 for the first time.

The day after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has become a time to reflect on shared values and build relationships based on trust and mutual respect. 

“I believe the day’s events provide a variety of opportunities to deepen our understanding of self-care and community care,” said Trymaine Gaither, interim director of community and public affairs and special assistant to the provost for inclusive excellence. “It’s essential for each of us to build our capacities to cultivate collective and individual healing so that we may better embrace and transform our community.“ 

Provost Elizabeth Chilton said bringing observance of the National Day of Racial Healing to WSU is important “to take the time to educate ourselves and each other about painful pasts and the legacies of those pasts in the present. Education is the first step towards healing and addressing racism and racial inequality.”

At WSU, the day will be celebrated across the system with virtual and in-person activities. They include a panel discussion, mindfulness and fitness classes and art events. 

Also for the first time, WSU will offer a “mental health virtual support space” as part of the day’s events. This activity will offer 20-minute tele-consultations with counselors in Cougar Health Services to any student across the WSU system. 

Gaither said it’s a way to destigmatize mental health services and make them available to students who may not have had access in the past. 

Jennifer Ellsworth, director of counseling and psychological services at Cougar Health Services, said the sessions will be offered on a drop-in basis. A student just needs to log on via a link on WSU’s National Day of Racial Healing website between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. that day.

Both Gaither and Ellsworth said they anticipate some students will use the opportunity as a stepping-stone to regular counseling, while others may just want to talk through an issue. They note that the sessions are not formal counseling, but students can be referred to resources for regular mental health care. 

Ellsworth said mental health care can be especially important for students who are members of marginalized communities, who might experience racism or micro- or macroaggressions. 

“We know there are a lot of different ways healing can take place in an individual’s life, but I think having a focus on mental health can be really profound and powerful,” she said. 

She added that if drop-in consultations prove popular, Cougar Health Services could consider offering them regularly. 

Visit WSU’s National Day of Racial Healing website to learn more about events offered on each WSU campus, including information on how to participate.  

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