RCC is rewarded a mental health prevention grant

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By Susan Parker / Special to Viewpoints

By Susan Parker / Special to Viewpoints

Riverside City College was awarded a $250,000 grant July 1 for mental health prevention and early intervention programs by the California Community Colleges Student Mental Health Program Office.

“A little over 33 percent of our college students felt so depressed it was difficult to function,” said Angela Boland, a Health Services specialist at RCC. “And a staggering 48 percent felt hopeless.”

RCC’s Student Health and Psychological Services estimates up to 11,040 of RCC students mirror the 2010 National College Health Assessment II survey statistic for hopelessness. And 24 percent, 5,520, of RCC students who need help never seek any psychological services.

The survey also stated that over 50 percent of those college students have had suicidal thoughts, while one in 10 students considered attempting suicide.

Boland has been selected as project director of the peer-to-peer program and Courtney DeRosia will be project director of the faculty and staff training.

The main objectives of the grant’s programs include providing prevention and response focused training to faculty and staff for students with symptoms of mental distress; increasing faculty, staff and student awareness of on and off campus resources; and promoting, providing and enhancing peer-to-peer resources and support.

Partnering with RCC’s Active Minds Club, this two-year project will include such activities as a YouTube video contest with a $1,000 cash prize per unit in 2012 and 2013 to the students who make the best mental health awareness video.

Another proposal pending approval is to hire about 10 student ambassadors. They will be paid and trained to reach out to other students through peer-to-peer resourcing, which is exactly what the students of Active Minds are already doing as volunteers.

“I’d love to drum up students who have a (mental or emotional distress, or ‘I have a friend who…’) story that they can share with other students,” Boland said to open a line of communication for students as RCC’s own social network media, that would be incorporated into website that’s also been proposed in this project.

“If you’ve ever helped someone who is suicidal get themselves help,” she adds. “Or intervene at that right moment for someone, it’s quite fulfilling to realize you’ve helped save somebody’s life.”

Boland admits that; though a proponent of therapy, she’s never considered seeking help herself, until last year. She had finally reached that point of having no other option and went to counseling for the very first time because she was just overwhelmed with not being able to work things out herself.

“I always thought that I should be able to figure out some way to make things work,” Angela said. “It was really helpful to have a neutral party give me a different perspective of my circumstance.”

“The majority of us just need someone to talk to before we lose our mind.”

In effort to make mental health and seeking help more acceptable, like going to the dentist, for instance, RCC will be hosting trainings, health fairs, in-class presentations and workshops to promote mental health awareness.

Students can help by participating, educating themselves and spreading the word among staff, faculty and students.

Students can also become involved by requesting to be a part of the grant’s regional advisory board, where they would represent the needs of the RCC community.

For further questions, students can contact the Active Minds Club on its Facebook account or by visiting Health Services on campus.

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