Mental health refers to our emotional and social well-being and impacts how we think, feel, and behave. It enables us to connect with others, make decisions, handle stress, and many other aspects of daily life. As with our physical health, mental health plays a big role in our overall well-being. But unlike general physical illness or injury, it can be more difficult to recognize when someone is struggling with a mental health issue.
Since September 2020, approximately 56 Michigan Tech faculty and staff have been trained and certified to recognize signs and symptoms, and provide support and strategies to those in need. This is all thanks to the National Council for Behavioral Health (NCBH) and Mental Health First Aid training provided by the Center for Student Mental Health and Well-being. The training, led by Sarah Dowd, Director of Student-Athlete Wellness and Clinical Counselor, and Sarah Woodruff, Clinical Counselor-Outreach, follows a hybrid model with several hours of pre and post-work and two half-day sessions of in-person instruction. The content focuses on the ALGEE plan: Approach/Access, Listen nonjudgmentally, Give reassurance and information, Encourage appropriate professional help, and Encourage self-help and other support strategies.
Several faculty and staff from Cognitive and Learning Sciences (CLS) now join those certified as part of the most recent cohort trained this May.
Associate Professor Kevin Trewartha (CLS/KIP) describes his reasons for completing the training. “I have multiple roles on campus that motivated me to complete the Mental Health First Aid training. Aside from engaging with students every day as a faculty member, graduate program director, and research advisor, I am also serving as the co-chair of the University Senate Committee on Promoting and Facilitating Equity and Understanding. In addition, I am also the faculty representative for the College of Sciences and Arts on the University Diversity Council. This year, the Senate passed a resolution on raising awareness and reducing mental health stigma. The Senate and the Diversity Council are dedicated to ensuring that individuals living with mental illness are supported and welcomed at Michigan Tech. I completed the MHFA to ensure that I am prepared to contribute to those efforts.”
Staff also play an important role in mental health support. “As CLS department coordinator and graduate program assistant, I interact with students, faculty, and staff for a variety of purposes on a daily basis,” Lisa Hitch explains of her participation in the recent MHFA training and certification. “I want to be knowledgeable about identifying and helping someone in need. I’m grateful that Michigan Tech values and provides such training for faculty and staff.”
MHFA as common as CPR
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, administered by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), shows that in 2018 an estimated 46.6 million people, or 18.9 percent of adults ages 18 years or older, experience a mental illness or substance abuse disorder each year. Latest research now estimates that more than 1 in 4 U.S. adults report experiencing symptoms of depression as we continue to deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The vision of the NCBH is for Mental Health First Aid to become as common as CPR and for Mental Health First Aid training to be available to everyone in the United States.
The MHFA training also teaches first aiders the importance of self care — putting on your own oxygen mask first so that you are able to assist others. SAMHSA has defined eight dimensions of wellness to help individuals focus on optimizing their health through emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational, and social components. (https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma16-4958.pdf). This is helpful information we can all use to support our overall wellness.
Michigan Tech’s Center for Student Mental Health and Well-being offers the Mental Health First Aid training each semester with the next available session sometime this fall. Certification is valid for three years upon successful exam completion.
Sources: https://www.mhanational.org/mental-health-month; https://www.samhsa.gov/; https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/news-and-updates/; https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/us-cases-of-depression-have-tripled-during-the-covid-19-pandemic