Campus administrators invite students, staff to participate in online mental health survey

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On Monday, UC Berkeley administrators invited students, staff and faculty members to participate in an online survey on mental health and well-being as part of an evaluation of the campus’s mental health services.

The anonymous survey is part of a statewide evaluation of mental health services conducted by the RAND Corp., a nonprofit policy think tank, on behalf of the California Mental Health Services Authority. The survey seeks to gather information about individuals’ experiences with mental health issues, the quality of services provided and campus climate regarding mental health and well-being.

The survey asks about the level and frequency of stress individuals experience as well as their opinions on the accessibility of services and information the campus provides about coping with stress and depression. It takes approximately 10 minutes to complete.

The survey will help the UC Student Mental Health Initiative Program — which oversees mental health services at UC campuses — gauge where to make improvements, said Taisha Caldwell, manager of the program. She said similar surveys developed by RAND likely will be used again to gauge progress over time.

According to Caldwell, the need for mental health services across the country has grown over the past decade — a trend reflected in UC campuses. She said she hopes counseling and psychological services can create a strong foundation of prevention and decrease the need for direct services.

There has been a push to advance mental health in California. In 2011, the California Mental Health Services Authority gave UC Berkeley a $600,000 three-year grant to improve student wellness, reduce stigma associated with mental health problems and reduce suicides, said Ann Collentine, the organization’s program director.

One campus program funded by the grant is the Gold Folder, which teaches faculty and staff members about indicators of distress and appropriate responses when mental health issues arise.

UC Berkeley’s counseling and psychological services also introduced the Look for the Signs campaign, which aims to raise awareness of depression symptoms. Just in Case, a smartphone app, provides resources about finding help for mental health problems.

Still, some students believe there is a lot of progress to be made. The Tang Center offers resources that are useful but inadequate given the size of the student population, said Sanjala Chitnis, co-chair of You Mean More, a campus suicide-prevention group.

“There’s a larger issue at hand,” Chitnis said. “It’s a societal issue — the stigma and the connotation behind the word ‘depression.’ It’s something that a survey and its results are not going to change, but at least they’ll start a conversation about it.”

Somin Park covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected].