California community colleges get $6.9 million for mental health training

Community college mental health grant

California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott recently announced that the California Mental Health Services Authority has awarded a $6.9 million grant to the state's community college system to be used over a three-year period for faculty and staff training on student mental health issues, suicide prevention, and peer-to-peer services.

The California Community Colleges Student Mental Health Program will provide funding to 12 colleges for training, technical services and peer-to-peer assistance. The program will also produce online training resources for all community college faculty and staff to help them respond appropriately to students who exhibit signs of mental distress.

Community colleges will collaborate with the California State University and the University of California on the projects.

A focus on student veterans will be an important element of the program.

Who the program will help

The community college students who commonly experience--or at risk of--mental health issues include the following:

  • Returning veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and depression as a result of their military and combat experiences
  • Those with no prior mental health history who need help for the first time due to developmental challenges and/or emotional, educational, economic and social stressors
  • Those who have experienced severe depression and previous suicidal thoughts and/or attempts
  • Those who have not been diagnosed, but may present challenges to the campus community by being disruptive
  • Those with diagnosed psychological disabilities, some of whom receive support from campus Disabled Student Programs and Services (DSPS) and health services offices
  • Those who may need help, but who do not use DSPS or other specialized services because of the stigma that is a significant barrier to seeking help for mental health issues

"Our most recent data shows that stress, anxiety and depression are among the top factors that affect student academic performance," Scott said in a statement. "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."

The California Community Colleges, which is comprised of 72 districts and 112 colleges serving 2.6 million students per year, is the largest system of higher education in the nation.

The Foundation for California Community Colleges is the official fiscal sponsor of the grant on behalf of the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office.