Carla Abraham

Carla is the owner and co-founder of College Resource Network, a scholarship search engine focusing on minority and disadvantaged students.

Mental Health Scholarships: Where Are They?

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As an owner of a scholarship search engine, I have spent a lot of time researching available scholarships over the past 4-5 years. I have found a multitude of college scholarships available to just about everyone. Our scholarship search engine, College Resource Network (collegeresourcenetwork.com) focuses on providing scholarships to minority and disadvantaged students.

Of all the scholarships I have researched, I have found the least amount available to the mentally ill and their families. This has been both alarming and disheartening given the staggering number of mentally ill adults (and children) in the United States. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that one in four adults-approximately 61.5 million Americans-experience a mental health disorder in a given year. One in 17−about 13.6 million−live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder. Approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. For ages 8 to 15, the estimate is 13 percent.

Why is it important to provide mentally ill students and their families with scholarship money for college?

People who have been diagnosed with a mental illness whether it is depression, bi-polar disorder, manic depression or schizophrenia have to deal with obstacles many others cannot understand unless they have gone through it themselves. Society labels and rejects people with mental illness and makes it harder for them to function in day-to-day life and become accepted members of society. Many times, it is a daily struggle for survival. Progress does not follow the same linear fashion as it may for the average college student. It may take longer and many more attempts to complete a college class or a degree program. The value of education and enrichment is invaluable for someone who is facing or has been through mental illness. It can offer a sense of self-esteem and accomplishment which can help one overcome his inner battle or at least contribute to their sense of well-being.

I have seen first-hand what mental illness can do to those who suffer from it on a daily basis and the effects it has on the family members who love them. Both my sister and my mother suffered from mental illness for most of their lives. My mother has been severely depressed for as long as I can remember. My sister Annette was diagnosed with Schizophrenia at the age of 16 and was in and out of mental hospitals until her untimely death at the age of 26. For her, she struggled immensely with so many of the issues that people with mental illnesses face: medication side affects, stigma and labels, finding work, living independently. She graduated high school later than her peers due to her struggles but she found solace in taking classes at a local community college. It gave her a sense of pride and enrichment although she had to work so much harder than her classmates. By providing scholarships to mentally ill students and their families, it can enrich and empower them as they are often overlooked by the rest of society.

Scholarships for the mentally ill can help ease the financial burden associated with college expenses and provides much needed support and encouragement. In the end, it ends up benefiting society as a whole by helping to prevent the mentally ill from living on the streets or in jails and falling through the cracks of a faulty mental health system. Scholarships can give opportunities for enrichment and a greater chance of success in not only life but in the personal struggle with self that all persons with mental illness face.

Some of the scholarships I have found for people suffering from mental illness are:

Buckfire & Buckfire P.C., Disability Scholarship – For those with mental or psychiatric disorders including depression but also applicable to people with other disabilities or medical conditions.

http://www.buckfirelaw.com/library/disability-scholarship.cfm   NEW!

Lilly Reintegration Scholarship- For those affected by schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder
http://www.reintegration.com/resources/scholarships/apply.asp

The Charles A. Olayinka Scholarhip – For those affected by bi-polar disorder
http://peacecharlie.com/

Bi-Polar Lives Scholarship – For those affected by bi-polar disorder
http://www.bipolar-lives.com/2013-bipolar-lives-scholarship.html

Tips on finding additional scholarships:

- Check with your local mental health organizations which may provide grants or scholarships for college.

- Check memorial scholarships for mental illness, many times it is the families who will start a scholarship fund to benefit those with a mental illness

- Check disabled scholarships. Sometimes organizations may offer scholarships to individuals with a mental or physical disadvantage. Contact the sponsoring organization and check with them about eligibility requirements.

- Search scholarship search engines such as collegeresourcenetwork.com, zinch.com or fastweb.com

Hopefully, there will be many more scholarship opportunities in the future to bring both awareness and support to mentally ill students and their families.

If you or a loved one are facing a mental illness, you are not alone. Seek support from a mental health organization such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness: Helpline: (800) 950-6264

For a list of Mental Health Resources By State, visit:

https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/reslist/rl_dsp.cfm?rs_id=24&rate_chno=11-91009

For a comprehensive list of mental health associations and resources, visit:

http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Child_and_Adolescent_Action_Center&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=23448

  • Roberta- Bobbi- Mercer

    Thank you, I am 59 and have BP disorder. I am taking care of my husband that is on hospice and have been homeboynd for the better part of a year and a half. This past week I had the opportunity to be on the campus of FSCJ in Jacksinville, Fl.
    I decided I can’t work but I can try to advance myself with a better education so that maybe someday I can be somebody that can make a difference.

  • Carla Abraham

    Dear Roberta,

    Thank you so much for your comment. I would like
    to congratulate you on overcoming your obstacles in life and pursuing
    your dream of going back to school. You are an inspiration!

    Best Wishes,
    Carla

  • Heather

    Thank you so much for the info. I’m schizoaffective and have been struggling with this for years. I feel so much better now that I reapplied for college and hope to get at least one scholarship to hopefully decrease the school loans a little. You are awesome.

  • Carla Abraham

    Hello Heather,
    Thank you so much for your comment and for visiting our blog. That is awesome that you are reapplying for college again. The more scholarships you apply for, the better your chances of receiving an award. I wish you all the best for your education and future.

    Best Wishes,
    Carla

  • sandra

    how horrible. You’d think there be many more. What about depression? No scholarship for that? What? people can’t go to college if depressed? I went on to get a BS in business and the entire time I was freaking depressed since I lost my job in 2007 (I had transferred from a JC to a University in 2006). So I looked (I felt) really stupid compared to my classmates. They all had a job and it was a school for working adults. But when I transferred over, I WAS working. This is so sad how society says “You can’t do it” to people with mental illness. I did it and I have an MBA now that I’m not using (not due to disablity, just due to the economy).

  • Carla Abraham

    Hi Sandra,
    Thank you so much for your reply. First of all, I would like to say congratulations on your accomplishments. I appreciate you sharing your experience. Yes, it is very disheartening that there are so few scholarships for people with mental illness. It doesn’t mean that people who suffer from depression or another mental illness can’t find scholarships. It just means that they will have to follow other avenues and locate alternate resources for funding. What it says is it that society has not recognized the full value that scholarships can have for those with mental illness. I hope this changes in the near future. Good luck to you in your endeavors and thank you again for sharing with us!

    Warm Regards,
    Carla

  • Katy

    I suffer from depression and have been disheartened by the lack of scholarships for depressed people. It would seem to me that attending school or going back to school would be a great help from those who suffer from metal and emotional disorders. I already have a bachelor’s, but have decided to get another in the field that I am interested in as a career and think will help get me out of a deep funk that I’ve been in since health issues turned my life upside down soon after I first graduated from college. I hope to find some help so that my goal will be attainable. I think pursing this degree will help greatly with my depression in many ways, probably the greatest of which is to have a goal and hope for my own future.

    As a side note, I checked out the Lilly Reintegration Scholarship (which I just missed the deadline for), now includes people with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), so at least that’s one resource for people with more general depression.