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California State University Select Committee on Mental Health Announces Findings of Study

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(May 12, 2010) –A California State University Select Committee on Mental Health announced the findings of a year-plus long study on collegiate mental health at the CSU’s Board of Trustees meeting today. Utilizing data compiled from all 23 campuses across the CSU system as well as national trends and surveys, the Select Committee’s report provides several critical findings and also presents eight significant recommendations.

"The issue of collegiate mental health affects not only students of the CSU but students across the country," said Charles B. Reed, Chancellor of the California State University. "These findings - and more importantly the recommendations - will assist us to better serve our students."

Findings of the study conducted by the 15 member committee indicate that students seeking treatment in CSU counseling centers have higher incidences of depression and anxiety compared to national norms. Other findings include:

  • 50% of students seeking treatment suffer from anxiety
  • 40% of students seeking treatment have depression
  • 15% of students seeking treatment abuse alcohol
  • 10% of students seeking treatment have suicidal thoughts

Conversely, the study found that CSU counseling center students less often have issues with harming themselves, needing hospitalization, considering suicide, considering injury or actually injuring another person than students at other campuses across the nation.

Based on their findings, the Select Committee unanimously made the following recommendations:

  • Develop an executive order for counseling centers
  • Identify adequate resources for basic services
  • Review the classification and bargaining unit placement of CSU mental health counselors
  • Require a campus review of counseling center structure and work distribution
  • Obtain clarification regarding release of student health information
  • Constitute a mental health services committee
  • Structure and coordinate data collection
  • Better integrate counseling services with other campus departments in an effort to promote overall wellness.

The CSU Office of the Chancellor created the Select Committee in early 2009 to report on the appropriate level of mental health services necessary to address student needs and to review and identify the resources necessary to provide those services. To assess need, the committee spent the past 14 months studying and surveying directors of counseling, health, disability services and housing. In addition to CSU data, the committee also conducted research into national trends in collegiate mental health and used national surveys to benchmark data.

The Select Committee is co-chaired by Dr. Lori Varlotta, vice president of student affairs for CSU Sacramento and Dr. Martin Bragg, director, health and counseling services for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and is composed of members in a variety of roles from 11 campuses across the system.

At the July Board of Trustees meeting, the committee hopes to make an additional presentation with a suggested plan to best implement their recommendations and findings.

To review the Select Committee’s full report, please see the Educational Policy section of Board of Trustees agenda:


About the California State University
The California State University is the largest system of senior higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, approximately 433,000 students and 44,000 faculty and staff. Since the system was created in 1961, it has awarded nearly 2.5 million degrees, about 90,000 annually. Its mission is to provide high-quality, affordable education to meet the ever-changing needs of the people of California. With its commitment to excellence, diversity and innovation, the CSU is the university system that is working for California.

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