Mental health training geared toward faculty, students

Psychology major senior Kelly Cooke (center) participated in the Mental Health First Aid Training session on Saturday March 25. The training provided faculty and students with the necessary skills to help someone with a mental illness. (Ash Dean/Photo Editor)

Geneseo Mental Health Task Force hosted a mental health training program on Saturday March 25 to teach individuals on campus—outside of the counseling center—how to care for individuals coping with mental health issues and what to do in a mental health emergency.

A total of 32 faculty, staff and students participated in this eight-hour training session called Mental Health First Aid Training for Adults Assisting Young People. The course was taught by representatives from Delphi Drug & Alcohol Council and funded by a grant the organization received from the state.

Lecturer and Internship Director for the School of Business Robert Boyd thought that faculty could benefit from the training, explaining that faculty are in contact with students on a daily basis and when interacting with students it is important that they have the skills to recognize when a student is struggling with a mental health related issue. 

Head of the Mental Health Task Force and a staff counselor at Lauderdale Laura Swanson highlighted the importance of students receiving training in mental health issues.

“Students are often the first to notice changes in their peers,” Swanson said. “Students are around each other a lot more than they are around faculty and staff members on campus, so I think having students trained just creates a more compassionate and empathetic community and helps prevent other students from falling through the cracks.”

Student participants said that the training they received was informative and that such a program has the potential to reduce the stigma of certain mental health illnesses. 

 “I’m looking into a career in the medical field right now, and I think there’s a lot of stigma with substance abuse and everything, and to be able to apply that will be cool,” Pathways peer advocate biology major senior Aideen Dempsey said.

Participation in the training was not limited to Pathways advocates and future medical professionals. Business and communication double major junior Julia Tannenbaum took part so she could be a resource for people in her life struggling with mental health issues.

“You want to have a better grasp on it, especially if someone comes to you and you’re the person that people usually come to for this information,” Tannenbaum said. “You want to know the correct information so that you can help them in the future as well as help yourself so you don’t feel like you’re drowning.”

This approach coincides the mission of the Mental Health Task Force, which was formed in 2015 in response to rising concerns about mental health care on campus. 

“It’s about making mental health a campus-wide issue, not just a counseling issue,” Swanson said. “While counseling is always going to be the main place people go for mental health, it’s about having as many people on campus have the skills, have their eyes and ears on it and have care and empathy for their fellow students and the students that they work with.”

Earlier this year, the Mental Health Task force rolled out an interactive, virtual 30-minute program called Kognito At-Risk, which was designed to train members of the community in recognizing and assisting people experiencing mental health issues. Kognito At-Risk is available to all members of the Geneseo community, faculty, staff and students, and so far 437 people have completed it this academic year.

Swanson said she hopes that the training will expand and be offered several times a year, free of charge. 

“I think it might be the kind of thing where we hold a few sessions a year and whoever’s interested comes in for a Saturday, student, faculty or staff,” Swanson said. “I could also see it being used as an addition to other specific groups who may want more training. If there are students interested in getting involved, I’m interested in talking to them.”

While Boyd said the training will be useful to him professionally, he believes that the real value of the training goes beyond that. 

“It’s a moral responsibility, not a work responsibility,” Boyd said. “It’s a human responsibility. That’s what’s really important."