Royce Hall on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles. Photo by John Schreiber.

UCLA will for the first time offer free mental health screening and treatment, if needed, to nearly 10,000 incoming freshmen and transfer students, it was announced Thursday.

The free mental health screenings — which eventually will be available throughout the campus community — are part of the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge, a campus-wide effort to reduce the health and economic impacts of depression.

The program is thought to be the first overall mental health screening program conducted at a university.

“It affects about 350 million people worldwide, and yet, in my view, depression remains somewhat overlooked and understudied,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said. “That depression has not been identified as our number one health issue astounds me.”

The Depression Grand Challenge has brought together more than 100 researchers from over 25 academic departments to develop better methods of detecting, evaluating and treating depression. Researchers also aim to eliminate the stigma associated with depression, which is often a barrier to seeking diagnosis and treatment.

All of UCLA’s incoming freshmen and transfer students will receive the first invitations to join the effort in the next few weeks.

The voluntary screening then will be opened to the UCLA community, including the health system, with the goal of incorporating 100,000 people in the research study, making it the largest and most comprehensive depression study ever undertaken, according to the university.

–City News Service

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