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Headshot of Senior Jasmine Daniel
Duke senior Jasmine Daniel

The shockwaves felt by the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated mental health crises across the world and strained the availability of mental health care resources. The stress and social isolation wrought by lockdowns increased vulnerabilities to chronic behavioral and mental health challenges. These impacts were not felt evenly, however, with kids and families in under-resourced settings bearing the brunt of this crisis, reinforcing existing social inequalities.

To tackle this issue, rising senior Jasmine Daniel worked on a family-strengthening program called Coping Together in Durham this past summer. Jasmine was selected as a DukeEngage Brodhead Fellow, a program that sponsors five independent projects each year led by Duke undergraduates to tackle social issues with U.S.-based community partners.

In developing her project, Jasmine drew upon her dual majors in Psychology and Global Health and her passion for mental health care and community-based participatory research. She partnered with Dr. Eve Puffer, a global mental health researcher at DGHI, and Dr. Wanda Boone, founder of Together for Resilient Youth (T.R.Y.) in Durham, to implement and evaluate the efficacy of the Coping Together program.

Coping Together has its roots in a program that Dr. Puffer developed for communities in rural Kenya as a family support intervention to close the gap in the availability of mental health services. It focuses on training community members to support neighbors struggling with family conflict and relationship challenges. Recognizing similar barriers to mental health care access in the U.S.—particularly among Black, Latinx, and rural communities—Dr. Puffer and Dr. Boone brought the program to Durham in 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. T.R.Y. served as the primary implementing partner, and their community health workers have since trained over 50 families from Durham and surrounding communities.

This summer, T.R.Y. enrolled its third cohort of 21 families. Caregivers and children attended eight virtual sessions to learn effective communication and problem-solving strategies to apply within their families and communities. This kind of support from trusted community members can help fill a key gap where access to traditional family therapy may be unaffordable or locally unavailable.

Logos for Coping Together and Together for Resilient Youth (T.R.Y.)
Coping Together and Together for Resilient Youth (T.R.Y.)

Jasmine helped coordinate and monitor this summer’s cohort during her eight-week Brodhead Fellowship. She met with participating caregivers to gather their feedback on the program and measure indicators of family functioning and closeness against baseline evaluations. Meanwhile, Jasmine worked with members of the Kenyan team to adapt the program model with lessons learned from the Durham experience.

Reflecting on her conversations with families, Jasmine writes, “Being aware of my role as a Duke student peering into the lives of families amidst summer vacations and busy work schedules, I had to sit humbly in silence many times. I was challenged to be a radical listener and affirm caregivers as they shared intimate parts of themselves with me, a student researcher.”

As Brodhead Fellows, students also receive support and mentorship from a Duke alumnus in a relevant field of work. Jasmine was mentored by Chris Geary (T’15) who works as a Senior Policy Analyst on education and labor policy at the New America think tank. Jasmine shared that “Chris encouraged me not to give up on finding a path that truly resonated with me. He pushed me to think critically about what I value and what I was not willing to sacrifice.”

Jasmine graduated in December 2022 and will continue working as a Teaching Fellow at Duke for Psychology 101 this spring. According to Jasmine, the communication and project management skills she learned during her Brodhead Fellowship will be an asset in her future work on community-centered mental health interventions.

To read more about Jasmine’s work this summer, click here to view her work portfolio. To learn more about the Brodhead Fellows program, click here.