Community colleges awarded $7 million for mental health training

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California community colleges have been awarded nearly $7 million to help students cope with stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.

The grant from the California Mental Health Services Authority will be used to help train faculty and staff in the state’s 112 community colleges to better respond to students who exhibit signs of mental distress.

About $1 million of the grant will be awarded competitively to 12 colleges to develop campus-based projects.

“Our most recent data shows that stress, anxiety and depression are among the top factors that affect student academic performance,” California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott said in a statement.

A 2010 survey of community college students found that 50% reported feeling very sad, very lonely and hopeless and more than a third said it was difficult to function because they were so depressed, Scott said.

In addition, 8% of respondents reported they had considered suicide and another 3% said they had attempted suicide. California’s community colleges face particular challenges as part of the largest system of higher education in the nation, serving nearly 2.6 million students.

A significant number are returning veterans with combat experience who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and depression. Other students may have previously diagnosed psychological disorders or may be stressed from work, school or relationships.

Projects are likely to include developing crisis intervention teams, connecting with community partners and helping students overcome the stigma associated with seeking services. Community colleges will also collaborate with the University of California and California State University on projects targeted to veterans, officials said.

By Carla Rivera

Los Angeles Times

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