A professor at North Carolina Central University in Durham is off on a journey across the country to bring awareness to the mental health needs of minorities.
Professor Robert Horne wore a black pants and a jacket with broad gold stripes for the trip. His helmet has a GoPro camera mounted on top to capture the trip because he’s traveling all corners of the country by motorcycle.
“I’m ready, the bike’s ready and the cause is a just cause," said Horne. "We really want to make a difference in the community.”
A group of colleagues and other NCCU supporters cheered, and wished Horne well, as he revved his engine. Horne, 55, has made long trips on his 2004 Honda VTX, including a trip to the Grand Canyon, but he's never circled the country on his bike like he plans to do this summer.
Horne says his 10,000-mile trip from Durham will take 30 days and he hopes to raise $30,000 to help underserved communities struggling with mental health and addiction.
“When I say underserved communities, I mean military populations, LGBT populations, racial and ethnic minority communities, because a lot of times there are so many barriers that keep people in those groups and communities from getting involved in mental health," said Horne, who helped develop NCCU's Addiction Studies Certificate Program.
African-Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience mental health problems than the rest of the population, according to research from the Department of Health and Human Services. And research shows this group disproportionately feels stigmatized when seeking help.
Prof. Edward Moody chairs the Department of Allied Professions at NCCU. He supports Horne's trip. Moody says the goal is to convince people to seek mental health professionals just like they seek out a dentist.
"Stigma often gets in the way of everything that keeps people from getting treatment," said Moody. "You see it with people of color, you even see it with people with religious backgrounds, even in our churches where they think it's like a sin or you lack faith."
Money raised on the motorcycle ride will go to the NCCU Counselor Education Program, the National Board for Certified Counselors Foundation and the Uganda Counseling Association.