Students Benefit from “Paws for Stress Relief” on December 11
Orange)—Rancho Santiago Community College District’s Santiago Canyon College (SCC) was awarded a $211,435 mental health grant to boost the college’s mental health services to students. The grant initiatives will work to raise students’ awareness of mental health issues and needs, reduce stress among high-risk populations, prepare college staff to provide effective mental health support, and integrate suicide prevention into safety and security measures and into administrative structures. The college will use the funds over the next two years.
“We plan on implementing a full range of strategies to help prevent student suicide,” said Melissa Campitelli-Smith, Psy.D., SCC psychologist, “One area of focus will be building the capacity of our faculty and staff through specialized training. Additionally, we plan on working to reduce the stigma and discrimination that our LGBT and veteran students may be facing.”
As part of the grant program, SCC’s Associated Student Government (ASG) will be assisting Psychological Services to sponsor “Paws for Stress Relief.” On Tuesday, December 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., students will be encouraged to take a break from the stress of finals by spending time with therapy dogs. A number of trained and certified therapy dogs will be available to students under a tent on the lawn near the SCC library. The canine “therapists” and their handlers are provided by Paws 4 Healing.
“Sitting in a giant tent and spending time with the animals really breaks up the stress of finals week,” said Jefferey Foreman, a second year SCC student and ASG member who is helping to coordinate the event this fall. “This event has a positive effect on everyone who comes, including faculty. After I spent time with a Corgi last spring at 'Paws for Stress Relief,’ I was ready to finish the semester and take my next exam. I felt calmer.”
Other tactics that the grant program will implement include:
- Providing comprehensive training to faculty and staff, as well as members of the campus Crisis Intervention and Threat Assessment Teams to engage in suicide prevention and intervention;
- Establishing continual mental health promotion activities and establishing an Active Minds chapter;
- Developing a pre-doctoral psychology internship program at SCC; and
- Strengthening community partnerships to expand referral network and share best practices for services.
“Our goal is to provide tools to students, faculty and staff so that they feel comfortable approaching and referring students who they perceive to be struggling,” said Campitelli-Smith, “As gatekeepers, we need to be able to identify warning signs and provide early intervention. We hope to normalize the campus conversation about mental health.”
The college will also be implementing the National College Health Assessment in spring 2013. The survey will provide a snapshot of students’ health habits, behaviors, and perceptions. The results of the survey will help the college identify future needs.
The augmented SCC Mental Health Program is funded by the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63). It is one of the several Prevention and Early Intervention Initiatives implemented by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of California counties working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. For more information, visit www.calmhsa.org.
About Santiago Canyon College
Santiago Canyon College is a public community college of Rancho Santiago Community College District, serving the residents of Anaheim Hills, Orange, Tustin and Villa Park. The college provides education for academic transfer and careers, courses for personal and professional development, and customized training for business and industry.
# # #