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Huskies sought for study on how Black men manage stress

February 3, 2021

The Northwestern University research team behind a free self-care app is recruiting Black men from Northern Illinois University’s undergraduate student body for a new study.

Kofoworola Williams, Ph.D., M.P.H., a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies (CBITs) in the Department of Preventive Medicine through Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, is spearheading the research.

“I think there are a lot of stressors African American men are dealing with that they aren’t necessarily forthcoming about, because of a lot of factors like mental-health stigma and medical mistrust and other things,” said Williams. “And so, informal mental-health-seeking methods — in this case, mobile-based and digital platforms and social media — might be a better opportunity for us to help these men and meet them where they are.”

Williams’ work builds upon a previous project at NIU by her mentor Emily Lattie, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Northwestern’s Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies in the Department of Medical Social Sciences. The study also complements Williams’ research interest in the mental health and wellbeing of African American men, the topic on which she wrote her dissertation in social and behavioral sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Both Huskies and students from the University of Illinois at Chicago have helped shape the growth of IntelliCare, a free self-care app built by Lattie’s team. But Williams says use of the app has been lower among male-identifying Black students than for other demographic groups.

“We noticed that Black male students on both campuses are underrepresented in the sense that they haven’t really been signing up for and using the app,” said Williams. “I want to know: Why not?”

Williams’ goals are to make Black men more visible in mental-health literature — and give them a voice in contributing to technologies that will benefit this historically marginalized population.

Undergraduate Huskies between the ages of 18 and 25 who have not used the IntelliCare app are invited to email Williams at [email protected]. Williams will contact eligible students for a brief virtual interview over Zoom to discuss their needs and preferences for using social media and apps for stress management. Participants in the study will receive a $20 Amazon gift card to compensate them for their time.

IntelliCare is still available for all Huskies to download permanently. The app gives students tools to track their mood, take mental-health questionnaires and get personalized feedback.