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New Jersey’s Community Colleges, through the New Jersey Council of County Colleges’ statewide Center for Student Success, have partnered with the Mental Health Association in New Jersey, the New Jersey Department of Health, and the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education to launch The Every Mind Project: Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Community College Students.

“The two plus years of the pandemic has further exacerbated the mental health challenges faced by all New Jerseyans,” said NJCCC President Aaron Fichtner, Ph.D. “It is critically important that we work collectively to ensure our Community College students receive the mental health supports they need to succeed in their studies and complete their post-secondary credentials so they can obtain jobs and careers that provide economic mobility and contribute to the state’s post-pandemic recovery.”

“The Covid-19 pandemic took an especially heavy toll on the students in our Community Colleges. Our student population is made up of communities of color, young people, older students returning to school, the undocumented, and veterans – many members of these communities have been impacted by stress, anxiety, depression, and substance use. The Mental Health Association in New Jersey (MHANJ) brings to this project expertise in providing behavioral health training, support groups, and peer-to-peer services. Our goal is to create a strong network of Community College counseling programs, services and support for students,” stated Carolyn Beauchamp, MHANJ President and CEO.

“We are excited to be part of this collaboration and to create a strong partnership with the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, the New Jersey Department of Health, and the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education. We will work together to aggressively address the mental health needs of students and strengthen the resources and support for college students and counseling services,” said Robert Kley, MHANJ Vice President and COO.

Unique stressors that have impacted Community College students include uncertainty of duration and adjusting to the “new normal;” fear of infection of themselves and loved ones, grief with the loss of friends and loved ones, inadequate or contradictory information, and increased financial and basic needs concerns. According to The Hope Center’s 2021 #RealCollege Survey report, 35% of Community College students throughout the country exhibited at least moderate anxiety this past year. In addition, the recently released Statewide COVID-19 Student Impact Survey Report from the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education revealed that 66% of Community College students are concerned about their mental health in light of the pandemic, and 70% of Community College students have more stress and anxiety now compared to last year.

The Every Mind Project is creating a statewide, holistic approach to supporting Community Colleges in meeting the mental health needs of students, including evidence-based Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) and Question Persuade Refer (QPR) training for faculty, staff and students; instructor training for mental health champions in MHFA and QPR to create long-term, sustainable awareness and education programs; Adolescent Clinical Trainings and mental health safety trainings for Community College counselors; the creation of mental health and basic needs resource folders and other materials for faculty and staff to have resources at their fingertips; campus-based events to reduce stigma and increase awareness of services available to students in need; and creating and strengthening partnerships among Community Colleges and community mental health providers to ensure students have access to services when they are in need.

The Every Mind Project is funded by the Community Foundation of New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund and New Jersey Department of Health’s U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant.

The Mental Health Association in New Jersey is a statewide non-profit organization that strives for children and adults to achieve victory over mental health and substance use disorders through advocacy, education, training, and services. More information can be found at www.mhanj.org.

The New Jersey Center for Student Success, a leading member of the 17-state National Student Success Center Network coordinated by Jobs for the Future, works with the state’s 18 Community Colleges to improve student outcomes, strengthen services to students and serves as a statewide resource for innovation and best practices. More information can be found at www.njstudentsuccess.org.

New Jersey’s 18 agile and innovative Community Colleges are prepared to lead in the response to and recovery from this public health and economic crisis and to secure a brighter future for all New Jerseyans. The New Jersey Council of County Colleges provides statewide leadership for the advancement of New Jersey Community Colleges, performs coordinating responsibilities as required by law, and coordinates statewide efforts to build a skilled workforce and improve student success. We encourage you to visit our website at www.njccc.org.