October 20, 2017
It costs you nothing to help an individual in a mental health crisis, and it costs you nothing to become certified in Mental Health First Aid though a free course right here on campus. There are two all-day sessions: Friday, Nov. 3, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. in the Center for Contemplative Studies and Thursday, Nov. 9, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. in Sykes Student Union.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) takes the fear and hesitation out of starting conversations about mental health and substance use problems by improving understanding and de-stigmatizing these issues. Participants are provided with an action plan that helps them safely and responsibly identify and address a potential mental illness or substance use disorder. They learn skills to interact with a person in crisis and connect that person with help. The nationwide program is designed to combat the stigma associated with mental illness and to foster discussion around mental health, substance abuse, and addiction issues.
Participants in the eight-hour course receive a comprehensive 138-page manual and certification as a "Mental Health First Aider" that is renewable every three years. The two courses are free, but reservations are required.
Already, there are nearly 300 trained First Aiders on campus. Most recently, 130 resident assistants (RAs) were trained prior to the start of the fall semester.
Can a lay person be effective in helping someone experiencing a mental health crisis? Studies from several U.S. and Canadian universities indicate they can.
University of Maryland research indicates that participants in MHFA courses "described gaining knowledge, skills, and confidence to help someone in distress; empathy for people with mental illness; and developing a sense of responsibility and permission to try to help when needed. … The distressed people encountering this study's interviewees likely experienced more supportive, non-judgmental, constructive interactions than they would have if encountering the same person prior to MHFA training or … untrained people generally."
And here, some WCU participants suggested in post-course surveys that they thought the training valuable enough to be made mandatory for students, faculty, and staff.
For additional information on Mental Health First Aid, contact Amanda Blue, Outreach Business Manager in the College of Health Sciences.