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:
Lilly Reintegration Scholarship- For those affected by schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder
The Charles A. Olayinka Scholarhip – For those affected by bi-polar disorder
Bi-Polar Lives Scholarship – For those affected by bi-polar disorder
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.
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:
For a comprehensive list of mental health associations and resources, visit: