Mental Health First Aid: Not Your Typical First Aid
What’s white, square and contains band aides, gauze, scissors, an Ace bandage, and maybe an Epi-pen? You guessed it: a first aid kit. Traditional basic first aid refers to the initial process of assessing and addressing the needs of an individual who may be injured or in physiological distress. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) also provides initial help to people, much like traditional first aid. However, MHFA focuses on assisting those developing a mental health disorder or experiencing a mental health crisis until the professionals can take over.
Called Project AWARE Kent, the mental health first aid initiative is directed by Dr. Deric Kenne, evaluated by Dr. Rebecca Fischbein, and implemented by coordinator Dr. Kimberly Laurene, all members of the Center for Public Policy & Health. Funded by a grant from the Department of Health & Human Services secured by Dr. Fischbein, Project AWARE Kent offers free MHFA classes to students, faculty, and staff at the Kent campus. This national, evidence-based course is designed to train volunteers about how to recognize the signs of mental illness, how to identify someone in need of help, and how to avail that person of available resources. The goal is to train 720 staff, faculty and students over three years with the intention of increasing awareness of mental illness, referral rates on campus, and the identification of people in need of services as well as sustaining the on-campus program after the granting cycle is over.
A diverse group of eight trainers, comprised of four University employees and four employees from Oriana House, conduct the eight-hour course to train others. The first class was in March 2016. To date, 269 KSU students, faculty and staff have taken the class to become Mental Health First Aiders and have made 295 referrals for services or counseling. Sixty-seven percent of the new trainers are students and 33% are faculty and staff.
Faculty, staff and students interested in completing the free MHFA course can visit Mental Health First Aid Course sign up. Students earn 1500 FLASHperks while staff and faculty earn two hours of Beyond Compliance for completing the course.
Project AWARE Kent hasn’t gone unnoticed in the community. Dr. Kenne and his colleagues have been contacted by law enforcement and other agencies about administering the training to community professionals and the Portage County Mental Health & Addiction Services supports Project AWARE and can provide MHFA trainings to agencies in the communities outside of KSU.