A center for mental illness education is being established in the School of Science at California State University, Hayward. The new Institute of Mental Illness Education grew out of the momentum being generated by the symposium "Mental Illness in the Classroom: How to Recognize It and Who Can Help," scheduled for March 11, 2000. The interdisciplinary institute will coordinate symposia, workshops and research projects to support mental illness education.
"We realize that we must develop a mechanism that will sustain our present efforts to raise the public's awareness of mental health issues," said Michael Leung, dean of the School of Science.
The focus on mental health education will set the CSUH institute apart from similar institutes that focus on medical research of brain disorders. Its location in the Bay Area positions it to develop research studies on homelessness, welfare, and other issues that often accompany mental illness, according to Leung.
The institute will seek the support of foundations and endowments. To date, more than a two dozen state and county organizations and political representatives have actively endorsed the institute. The March symposium project recently received a $25,000 unrestricted grant from the California Endowment. The Zellerbach Family Fund has pledged $10,000 for symposium scholarships for parents, teachers and college students, to be awarded once the project is fully funded.
"Mental Illness in the Classroom" will draw teachers, administrators, mental health professionals, parents and students to campus for a full day of presentations and small workshop discussions about resources and strategies to use in the classroom.
According to symposium co-chairs Dede Ranahan and Melany Spielman, the symposium is designed to begin a public dialogue about mental illness and also help to identify and address the challenges of working with students who require special services related to mental health issues.
Symposium co-sponsors include the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill--California, the Alameda and Contra Costa counties' offices of education and 20 other local and statewide organizations.
"This is a groundbreaking event," said Ranahan, a development officer in the university's Office of University Advancement. "This is the first in what we hope will be an ongoing series of educational activities held under the auspices of the Institute of Mental Illness Education. The university is already receiving registrations and scholarship applications, and inquiries are coming from southern California as well as out of state."
"Mental illness has touched many families who have had terrible experiences getting services and support," said Spielman, an assistant professor in the Department of Recreation and Community Services. "Our goal is to increase awareness about the dire need to improve support and treatment. It is our hope to have many interdisciplinary projects at CSUH that will focus on the needs of people with mental disorders."
As coordinator of recreation therapy, Spielman trains professionals to work with disabled persons.
Symposium topics include understanding the stigma attached to mental illness; a developmental overview of behavior across childhood, adolescence and early adulthood; cultural and legal issues; drug and alcohol abuse as possible signs of more serious illness; the warning signs of depression and suicide; and specific considerations of the classroom.
"The intent," said Ranahan, "is to help teachers, not load them up with more responsibilities than they have already."
For more information about the institute or to register for the March symposium call (510) 885-3724 or contact Ranahan via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public Affairs Offices/Campus News