Magazine article University Business

In California, Hope for Student Mental Health Care: Outreach Results in Greater Student Service Engagement, Higher Grad Rates

Magazine article University Business

In California, Hope for Student Mental Health Care: Outreach Results in Greater Student Service Engagement, Higher Grad Rates

Article excerpt

California's colleges and universities have made strides in providing mental health care to students--when higher ed as a whole has struggled to keep up with a growing demand for services. Recent studies suggest that up to one-third of college students suffer mental health problems.

California's Mental Health Act, passed in 2004, assesses a 1 percent tax on residents whose personal income exceeds $1 million a year, providing an annual $8 million toward mental health care and early intervention measures for public colleges and universities.

A Rand Corporation analysis found student use of mental health services increased 13 percent in fiscal year 2013-14, and an additional 329 students graduated as a result of receiving these services. A 2009 University of Michigan student survey linked depression to lower GPAs and a greater risk of dropping out.

In the California State University System, the grant funded extensive mental healthcare training for administrators, faculty and students. Sessions focused on suicide intervention skills, mental health first aid, and the "question, persuade and refer" (QPR) model of communicating with distressed students, says Ray Murillo, the system's director of student programs.

QPR trains staff to recognize and respond accordingly when a student is demonstrating suicidal behavior.

Those who attended the CSU sessions also became certified to provide ongoing suicide prevention and mental health training on their home campus, he says.

Mental health awareness activities takes many forms, including:

* Campuswide health and wellness fairs

* Awareness efforts to eradicate stigma associated with mental health disorders

* Peer-to-peer programs in which students act as mentors for their classmates

* Student organizations such as Active Minds, a group working on several California campuses to promote mental wellness events

* Classroom presentations by counseling and psychological services staff

CSU offers commuter students depression screenings at campus health centers and mental health links in student portals, Murillo says. …

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