Students given chance to explore mental health careers

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Blue Shield of California provided a $500,000 grant to Health Career Connection to address the need for mental health services.

"One in 5 individuals has a mental health condition at any given time, and I think it's a silver lining of this horrible year and a half that we've been through," says Jennifer Christian-Herman with Blue Shield of California.

The project aims at increasing the diversity pipeline for the mental health profession. As a result, 36 college students from underrepresented or disadvantaged backgrounds were selected for internships across the state.

Six of who are right here in the Central Valley.

Christian-Herman says it's time the behavioral health workforce reflects the community it serves and believes providing the pathway will have a long-term impact.

"To some extent, it's lack of opportunity, and I also think individuals who don't see people like themselves as role models, they may not even realize what the path is to have those careers," she said.

The interns selected are halfway done with the program. Three of them are gaining knowledge at the Fresno Department of Behavioral Health. Two are with California Health Collaborative, and another is with NAMI Merced.

"One of them is working with making our brochures more culturally competent specifically to the Punjabi community," said Laura Luna with the Fresno Department of Behavioral Health.

With an increase of people willing to engage in treatment amid a worldwide pandemic, diversity within the field can be the key for those in need.

"Often that does tie what someone looks like, the language they speak, the background they come from," Christian-Herman said.

Connections, she says, can shift someone's life.

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