All Incoming UCLA Students To Receive A Vital Mental Health Assist

By Kelly Burch 09/27/17

The first-of-its-kind mental health service will be offered to all incoming UCLA students. 

UCLA's Royce Hall

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) will begin offering depression screenings to all incoming freshmen and transfer students this fall as part of an initiative to address mental health issues on campus. 

The first-of-its-kind service will initially be offered to all new students on campus though the university intends to make it available for everyone soon. The voluntary survey is available online, and students who need help will be invited to participate in a free eight-week online class about depression and mental health. Those who need more mental health services will be connected with on-campus care. 

"To our knowledge, no other university has ever attempted screening of this nature and scale," UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said, according to CNN. "Students who choose to participate will be screened for depression and related traits—anxiety, mania and suicidal tendencies. And we will offer help to those who need it.”

Depression is common, but can be devastating, especially for young adults who are just starting to form their independence. 

"In terms of dollar costs to society, depression is one of the most expensive diseases we face. The human toll is terrible. It affects all ages and all backgrounds. It is pervasive,” Block said. 

By catching depression early, UCLA officials hope that they can minimize the damage done during the critical early-adult years. 

"College age is when there is a lot of attention to student potential. It is when the adult trajectory becomes set," said Nelson Freimer, a UCLA professor of psychiatry and bio-behavioral sciences who is leading the screenings under the UCLA "Depression Grand Challenge." The challenge aims to better understand depression in order to decrease it by 50% by 2050. "If you become derailed, it can be really hard to get back on track,” said Freimer.

Colleges have increasingly become aware of the mental health challenges on campus, from academic pressure to social pressure and substance use. Campuses are addressing this in a variety of ways, including mindfulness and meditation classes, which are offered to students at Duke University in North Carolina.   

Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs at Duke, said he's interested to see what the UCLA survey reveals and how it helps students.

"I think there is going be much higher numbers [of students] who need treatment than they expect," Moneta said. "We will be watching UCLA very carefully to see if it has utility...And to see if it reduces the tragic results associated with depression."

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.