Positive Mental Health at PVAMU: Dr. Derek Wilson on How Prairie View Has Shaped His Research

Dr. Derek Wilson is a man on a mission: to improve mental health for people of African descent.

“We need to instill in every minority child, particularly Black children that they come from somewhere. They have a rich history of success, triumph, and excellence for which they can still represent. Our young people in this society must be made to feel that they are of value and it is not ideal to be something they are not. Most importantly, they have the right to walk in the world and contribute to its forward flowing process,” he said in response to questions on how culture impacts mental health in society.

His research has focused on ways to do exactly that while being inspired and aided by the incredible students and unique campus culture here at Prairie View A&M University.

Throughout his 14 years here, he has developed the Ubuntu Model of Positive Mental health, an approach that centers on engagement and expectations of excellence to help increase consciousness and wellness throughout communities.


A Pathway to Positivity

Dr. Wilson’s Ubuntu Model serves not only to help explain current issues but helps provide pathways to how society can be improved.

His unique approach allows him to fully empower students that work with him, allowing them the freedom to create their own research, with his one restriction being that they focus on what’s “right with us”.

Several of the Prairie View students working in his Ubuntu: Positive Mental Health Research lab have been able to present their work at conferences, including this year’s prestigious ABPSi conferencein July. Dr. Wilson’s students who will attend this conference include Jhasity Booker, a junior, who will be presenting “Positive Mental Health in Black Children”; James Harney, a senior, with his work “From Boys to Men: An introspective look at the development of black men in interpersonal relationships”; and Kasandra Love, a sophomore, who will present “Psychology of Black Hair, Myths, and Self-Respect .“


Culture Holds the Cure

 A major theme throughout Dr. Wilson’s research is exploring how culture shapes an individual’s worldview, and how that in turn impacts their community.

By exploring culturally congruent approaches, Dr. Wilson is confident his research will help make significant strides towards more harmonious and altruistic societies.

A collectivist worldview creating highly beneficial environments is well-supported with past and present examples, he explains, “This is reminiscent of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma; this is reminiscent of Mr. Smith, Morehouse’s Commencement speaker who decided to pay for the 2019 graduating class student loan debts, and not to mention Dr. Ruth Simmons celebrating African culture with a processional of drummers and dancers at our graduations and spiritually honoring the greatness of our students.”

Ultimately, he believes that the solution to mental health issues in African American communities is Ubuntu: the demonstration of connectedness, competency, and consciousness.


Strides Towards Social Justice

Improving the mental health of communities isn’t just beneficial from a success-generating standpoint– it can also serve as a pathway to increased social justice.

By truly understanding the ways in which culture is valued or devalued in society as a whole, Dr. Wilson hopes to make a more equitable world.

His life’s work as a community psychologist is to help implement positive therapeutic interventions that will break down biases and create an environment where people can thrive.

When asked about the number one thing he wants the world to understand about his research, Dr. Wilson responded, “My research is about US! My motto is that “we are African as we are.” My research is about healing, reclaiming, redefining and demonstrating what healthy functioning looks like, smell like, and feels like. When we celebrate, research, and expound on our greatness we will continue to contribute to advancing society.” He welcomes anyone to witness his work in teaching his classes and willingness to work on collaborative research.

Thanks to his tireless efforts and passion for empowering students, there’s no doubt Dr. Wilson’s work will continue to enhance the rich culture of Prairie View as a whole.

For more coverage on the innovative research being done on campus, be sure to follow @pvamu on Instagram and Twitter.