Student Organizations | January 25th, 2020

Between Sistas Gives FAMU Women a Safe Haven

By: Mia Uzzell
Between Sistas Gives FAMU Women a Safe Haven

The FAMU Counseling Center, in partnership with Active Minds Inc., hosts a peer support group for the sistas’ who need a space to destress, regroup, or lean on a community that understands them. 


Hosted every other Thursday in the Office of Counseling Services, the group plans to serve the campus as a safe haven, completely free of cost, for female students to discuss topics relevant to the navigation of womanhood and collegiate life.


With Active Minds Inc. aiming to counter stigma as an on-campus mental health advocacy group, its collaborative effort with the counseling center seamlessly brings their collegiate following to professional services. The organization has hosted numerous events centered on its platform of creating an open forum for life-saving conservations, but Between Sistas is the first recurring peer support group. 


“I wanted to bring it here because we don’t have too many support groups on campus,” says Dr. Chika Hooper who spearheaded the initiative alongside Active Minds Inc. The licensed staff psychologist, who also works as the outreach coordinator of the counseling center, previously coordinated the group at another university and knew it was only right to grant FAMU women the same access to a safe space to heal. 


“We need more spaces where we feel safe and secure amongst each other. In general, but specifically as women, we have so many insecurities and a lot of us are struggling with the same things, and we don’t know it,” says Dr. Hooper. 


Florida A&M University unequivocally fosters an atmosphere of excellence, but in the shadows, many students are intensely overwhelmed by the pressures to compete academically and socially. Compounded with being held to society’s crucial standards on image, women on campus are bound to endure bouts with insecurity and self-esteem. 


Striving to meet ideal levels of perfection, many become masters of image impression management all too often as they construct the perfect facade that represses their true selves. On the subject of the mentally-destructive phenom, Dr. Hooper says, “It is walking around trying to put off an image or confidence that isn’t accurate or reflective of what is going on in [a] person internally.”


There is often a looming fear of judgment that many may experience when considering to attend sessions, like Between Sistas, that calls for pride and ego to be left at the door. However, Bleu Bell, the president of Active Minds Inc., emphasizes the judgment-free zone that Between Sistas engenders. “We don’t care about your image or how you portray yourself on social media. If you curse, curse. If you cry, cry,” said the senior Public Relations student. 


This hesitance to receive help isn’t the only barrier that inhibits access to mental health services. Culturally-rooted obstacles exist as well. Specifically, within the African-American community, the perspective on mental health is undoubtedly inundated with the age-old “what happens in our household, stays in our household” mindset. 


This leaves millennial African-American students perplexed on whether their mental health concerns are dire enough to be addressed to a therapist. Bell said, “Minorities, in general, do not have the same level of access to mental health services and are reported to be less likely to reach out for help, despite being disproportionately affected by mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.”


In addition, collegiate women simultaneously juggle the responsibilities of being students, leaders, daughters, and even mothers. This cumbersome task often outweighs the possibility of seeking counseling even when it is needed. Yet, it is time for women to commit to placing self-care above all.


Individual sessions are understandably intimidating, which makes Between Sistas the perfect place to start on the journey to mental wellness. According to, the improvement of coping skills, a gained sense of situational control, and the receiving practical, sound advice are the beneficial aspects of a support group.


Most of all,  it is equally important to remember that although support groups aren’t precisely curative for all issues, the communal support provides the needed solace to work through problems.