A $6.9 million grant to California community colleges will go towards assisting with the mental health needs of students in the state.
Community college students can face many challenges on the road to a degree, including financial strains and the delicate balance between school, jobs and family responsibilities. Many community college students feel the stress of college life in negative ways, which can directly impact their ability to succeed in school and beyond. A large number also report mental health issues during their community college years, which include stress, depression and anxiety. In response to some of these complaints, the California community college system recently announced the distribution of nearly $7 million in grant money to help students cope with the pressures of life and survive their college experience.
Funding to be Split Among California Schools
According to a report at Los Angeles Business, the grants will be funded by the California Mental Health Services Authority. The $6.9 million allotted for the mental health needs of community college students will be split among 12 of the community colleges located throughout the state. The Signal reports that the funding will be used for training of staff and faculty, suicide prevention and peer-to-peer services. At least some of the money will be directed at students who are veterans and suffering with related mental health disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
“Our most recent data shows that stress, anxiety and depression are among the top factors that affect student performance,” Jack Scott, chancellor of California Community Colleges told Los Angeles Business. “This grant comes at a critical time as students are under even more stress because of economic troubles. Almost 50 percent of students reported feeling very sad, very lonely and hopeless and more than a third reported that they were so depressed, it was difficult to function.”
According to a report at the Los Angeles Times, the date cited by Chancellor Scott came from a report released in 2010. This report showed that half of all college students polled said they felt sad or lonely at some point during their college experience. The report also found that eight percent of respondents reported they had contemplated suicide and another three percent said they had actually attempted suicide during that time. California is the largest system of higher education in the country, serving more than 2.6 million students at 112 campuses across the state, so the state shoulders a large bulk of the challenges facing college students today.
Family of Deceased Student Applauds Funding
One couple supporting the idea of funding mental health support at community colleges is Mary and Victor Ojakian. The Ojakians lost their 21-year old son Adam to suicide while he was a student at the University of California in 2004. According to a press release at YubaNet.com, the family has been strong advocates for mental health support on college campuses since that time.
“We are acutely aware of the difficulties and trauma a family experiences when a loved one dies of suicide,” the Ojakians stated in the press release. “It is our hope that these funds can be used to create a sustainable system of improved understanding and support for those struggling with a mental health issue. We hope to prevent all of us from losing a loved one to the fatal outcome of these illnesses – suicide. Since losing our son to suicide, we have worked toward improved mental health understanding and services in all California universities and colleges. Our son was never diagnosed, but we feel that he experienced a deep depression that went unrecognized and untreated.”
Students Facing Mental Health Issues
Many college students face the risk of mental health issues during their college years, according to the press release at YubaNet.com. Some of the students who are at risk include:
- Students who have a history of severe depression or have had suicidal thoughts or contemplated suicide in the past
- Students who do not have a history of mental health disorders but prove challenging to college campuses due to disruptive behavior
- Those who develop financial, academic, social or other challenges for the first time when they become a part of the college campus community
- Veterans who are at particular risk for mental health disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder or depression as a result of their military experiences
- Those who have been diagnosed with psychological disabilities in the past
- Students who need mental health support but refuse to seek it due to the stigma attached to such action
While some who fall into these at-risk categories do seek help, many others do not. The funding from this grant will be used to train staff and faculty to recognize signs in students who require mental health support and help them provide the necessary guidance to ensure students get the help and support they desperately need. Part of the work will also involve overcoming the stigma of seeking out services for mental health disorders, so students will be more likely to get help when they really need it.
Mental health is not one of the subjects frequently talked about when student success is discussed. However, a rising number of students experiencing mental health challenges is not something that can be overlooked, if the United States is going to get serious about boosting the success rates at community colleges across the country. With the very lives of some students at stake, it is imperative that colleges learn to offer the services and support many college students need to overcome psychological challenges and disorders and enjoy a productive, successful college experience overall.
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