CSU Channel Island student volunteer smiling at Involvement Fair
Story Wellness

CSU Recognized for Promoting Mental Health Literacy

Janessa Thropay

Mental Health First Aid training has equipped more than 600 faculty members to become allies for students.

CSU Channel Island student volunteer smiling at Involvement Fair

Photo courtesy of CSU Channel Islands


The National Council of Mental Wellbeing honored the California State University with the Mental Health First Aid Momentum Award on April 30, 2023, for its work in accelerating positive community change through education and faculty-led support for those experiencing mental health challenges.

Using the council's Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training program, a group of dedicated CSU faculty have trained over 600 of their colleagues systemwide to become mental health allies for students, equipping them to identify, understand and respond to symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges.

“On college campuses, teaching and caring for the whole student have sometimes been separa​te activities. Mental Health First Aid—taught by faculty for faculty—is enabling us to foster a culture of caring," said Emily Magruder, Ph.D., CSU's director of Innovative Teaching and Future Faculty Development, who accepted the MHFA Momentum Award on behalf of the CSU.

three women standing on stage

From left: Tramaine El-Amin of the National Council of Mental Wellbeing, Emily Magruder of the CSU Chancellor's Office and Deanna Roepke of the National Council of Mental Wellbeing​.​ 

Much like first aid training, the MHFA program prepares lay people to aid individuals in distress until they can be connected to professional help. In addition to reducing the stigma around mental health, the curriculum teaches participants how to respond to common mental health and substance use issues that can be exacerbated by the high-stress environment of college, while also equipping them to assist students in finding social support and resources for recovery within and beyond their campus community.​​

“The whole idea is to enable faculty to feel that they can intervene. They can deescalate. They can have de-stigmatizing conversations and they can get that person to the appropriate professional to find the help that they need," said MHFA-certified trainer Bonnie Gasior, Ph.D., in a 2021 Calstate.edu article. ​​

Gasior, a professor of Spanish at Cal State Long Beach, along with CSU San Marcos modern language studies professor Darci Strother, Ph.D., and Cal State ​San Bernardino psychology instructor Sailesh Maharjan, first introduced the program to the CSU in 2020.​​​​​Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet From l​eft: Emily Magruder of the CSU Chancellor's Office, Darci Strother of CSU San Marcos, Bonnie Gasior of Cal State Long Beach and Sailesh Maharjan of ​​ Cal State San Bernardino.

Due to the high demand for MHFA training across the system, the CSU's Innovative Teaching and Learning Programs (ITLP) expanded the trainings in 2021-22 by increasing the number of faculty instructors to meet the need of those interested in participating in the developmental sessions. With a completion rate close to 100 percent, CSU faculty have demonstrated a clear desire to increase their mental health literacy and provide support to students who may be struggling in this way.​​

Each CSU campus offers Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for students who may be facing difficulties with their mental health. But some may initially seek a more familiar confidant, such as an instructor, to begin talking about their mental health. In light of this, MHFA-certified faculty help to strengthen the university's mental health and substance use safety-net systems.​

Supporting students' well-being is critical for student success and is an operational priority of Graduation Initiative 2025, the university-wide effort to increase graduation rates for all CSU students while eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps.


MHFA training has empowered CSU faculty to be ​advocates of students' mental health and well-being. Learn more about how the CSU supports students' basic needs.

Basic Needs Initiative