Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Office of College Advancement
Fremont, CA-Mental health issues can strike at college students, often catching them off guard or uncertain of how to cope. Depression or anxiety brought on by the academic stress and social anxieties of college life may manifest themselves in physical or mental symptoms. Depending on the severity, these issues may affect how well students function in college, such as concentrating on their studies or staying motivated in their classes. Students may not seek counseling for their symptoms, perhaps because they don't understand why they feel as they do, but also because they are put off by the stigma attached with consulting a professional and seeking help. Fear that friends or family may find out, but also the fear of admitting to themselves that they are unable to cope on their own often keeps a student from dealing with the problem.
At Ohlone College, some students face the same pressures that are faced by students nationwide. From the results of the National College Health Assessment survey of 2010, which included Ohlone students as part of the random sample, the most common influences that affected academic performance were: 1) stress; 2) work; 3) depression. According to the 2010 nationwide survey, within the previous 12 months 6% of students had considered suicide (more than 1 in 20) and 2% had attempted suicide (1 in 50 students). 1 in 7 reported overwhelming anxiety, nearly 1 in 4 students reported being overwhelmed, very sad or lonely, and 1 in 6 students reported being depressed.
To address the problem of students who do not seek the help they need Ohlone College's Student Health Center applied for a large grant to develop a public health program called STEP Up Ohlone. Staff at the Center were recently notified that they received $332,182-twice the amount they applied for-to launch an ambitious two-year project to create a socially connected network of support for students to deal with problems early without fear of being stigmatized or marginalized by fellow students, family members and the community. Nurse Practitioner Sally Bratton, head of the Student Health Center, said "Ohlone is excited to be part of statewide efforts to address mental health issues at a prevention and early intervention stage-to find ways to increase social connectedness and to provide support for our students."
The two-year mental health wellness campaign is STEP Up Ohlone, where STEP stands for Students Together in Education and Prevention, with the goal being to reduce the stigma and discrimination of seeking services for mental health services. To accomplish this, the program will develop a peer to peer mentoring support system using multiple platforms of social media to build the capacity of Ohlone staff and faculty to better understand these issues.
The Ohlone Student Health Center already has a good program that offers mental health counseling and referrals to other support services in the community. However, the goal of STEP Up Ohlone is to use a public health approach to change the environment and the social culture around how the community thinks about and supports those who need mental health services. The activities funded by the grant will work with students, faculty, student support programs, and academic departments-all areas and activities on campus that students interact with-to create opportunities for positive interpersonal contact around issues pertaining to mental health.
Funding from the grant comes from the Alameda County Behavioral Health Care services through the use of Prop 63 state funds. Prop 63, which passed in 2004, is a 1% tax on Californians with personal incomes of $1 million or more (about 1% or approximately 1 in 1000 people in California).