Helping Students in Distress due to Mental Illness

William B. Lawson

November 28, 2007


Few people can speak with the authority that Dr. William Lawson can when discussing the mental disorders of college students, especially African American students. Dr. William Lawson is not only Professor and Chairman of Howard University’s Department of Psychiatry but a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, a member of the American College of Psychiatrists, former president of the Black Psychiatrists of America, Vice Chair of the Addiction Council of the American Psychiatric Association, and past Chair of the National Medical Association’s Section on Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He has also earned the Exemplary Psychiatric Award and Outstanding Psychologist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, the Jean Spurlock Award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Multicultural Workplace Award from the Veterans’ Administration, the Howard Faculty Senate Award for Creativity and Research, and the E.Y. Williams Clinical Scholar of Distinction Award from the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Section of the National Medical Association. Dr. William Lawson has also produced more than 100 publications on mental illness and won a $6.5 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct research on mood and anxiety disorders, especially among African Americans.

Yet, when asked what motivated him to achieve so much in his field, Dr. Lawson simply says, “Helping people get well.” That’s why Dr. Lawson agreed to come to CETLA to tell faculty how to recognize symptoms and refer students for treatment at the University Counseling Services. As the American Psychiatric Association explains, faculty assistance is necessary since “the need for mental health services on college and university campuses is increasing.” Faculty assistance is even more critical at historically black colleges since, according to Dr. Lawson, African Americans are as likely to suffer from mental illness as White Americans, but less likely to seek treatment.

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