Faculty and staff at WSU are gaining knowledge and skills to address the increasing number of students facing depression, anxiety and mental illness.
Cougar Health Services offers Mental Health First Aid training and since the fall of 2015, about 900 students, staff, and faculty have completed the eight-hour course. The University aims to increase that number so that students in need are never far from help. The Office of the Provost sponsored two sessions of Mental Health First Aid this spring for faculty and staff that are in frequent contact with students.
“I took the training because students do occasionally come to faculty with issues,” says Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, one of nearly 20 faculty and staff who took part in a training session sponsored by the Office of the Provost last month.
According to a 2018 survey conducted at WSU, 89.1 percent of students, “felt overwhelmed by all they had to do,” within the last year, and 44.5 percent, “felt so depressed within the last year, that it was difficult to function.”
“I read the results of the survey from Cougar Health Services, and seeing how many students are feeling overwhelmed or depressed, I think it’s really important for faculty to have open doors to listen, and then to appropriately assess and respond to students in need,” Carpenter-Boggs says.
The Mental Health First Aid course prepares participants to provide immediate care for students, or other individuals, until a mental health professional is available. The certification through USA Mental Health First Aid lasts for three years.
“We train on how to assess individuals, and then train on what to do next – how to connect them with resources,” says Ryelee Vest, Health Education Coordinator for Cougar Health Services. “We have heard from many faculty and staff members that students come to them describing the difficulties they’re having with their mental state, and they don’t always know how to respond. We hope everyone on our campus will eventually have this in their toolbox, just to handle those basic questions.”
Vest emphasizes that the course does not equip people to solve mental health issues. There are numerous resources on campus and in the community to help, but the first step is recognizing the need, which Mental Health First Aid is designed to equip community members to do.
“We really train them to stay away from diagnosing the problem,” Vest says. “We give them the tools to recognize some signs and symptoms, and then to get the person to the appropriate professional help. A lot of times faculty and staff feel like they need to fix the student then and there, but we really try to empower them to reach out to the resources that we offer.
For more information, and to register for Mental Health First Aid courses, visit Cougar Health Services.