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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Hartford HealthCare partnership brings mental health first aid training to Quinnipiac

Quinnipiac University and Hartford HealthCare are partnering to offer free mental health first aid training courses to students, faculty and staff throughout the spring 2024 semester.

Mental health first aid is built upon the same basic principles as CPR, teaching bystanders to assist someone experiencing a crisis, according to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing’s official website.

Mental health first aid teaches about recovery and resiliency, the belief that individuals experiencing challenges such as depression, anxiety, mood disorders, trauma, psychosis and substance-use disorders, can and do get better, NCMW also states.

Thanks to a Health and Wellness Education grant from the state of Connecticut, Kerry Patton, associate dean of student affairs for health and wellness, brought the eight-hour long, nationally recognized training to the Quinnipiac community at no cost.

Quinnipiac, in partnership with Hartford HealthCare, is offering these courses both virtually and in-person.

The next available sessions are scheduled for Feb. 16, Feb. 24, March 2, April 5 and April 20. Every course starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. March 2 is the only in-person session offered in Recreation and Wellness Center Room 218, with the other ones to be hosted on Zoom. 

However, Patton noted that she can also try to accommodate any groups of faculty or students who might want a certain date or time. 

“My goal is to try and have as many students, faculty and staff sign up and attend,” Patton said. “The goal is to really try and increase awareness of mental health and this is the one particular training that is highly recommended.”

Patton said, 150 participants have signed up for the course — 34% of which are students, as of Feb. 5. 

Bernadette Mele, chair and clinical professor of diagnostic imaging, attended one of the Zoom sessions. She said the sign-up process was easy, with very clear expectations for attending. 

“We had some two hours of paperwork that had to be done prior to the day, to help you prepare and be ready for discussions, and you had to be available for the entire eight hours,” Mele said. “We had opportunities for group discussions, there were a lot of scenarios, videos that were helpful as well as break-out sessions with smaller group discussions.”

The course teaches individuals to apply the knowledge they learn in a variety of crisis situations. Specifically, they learn how to properly help someone experiencing panic attacks, suicidal thoughts or behavior, nonsuicidal self-injury, acute psychosis, a trauma response, overdose or withdrawal symptoms.

The training teaches a multi-step action plan that includes: assessing for risk of suicide and harm, how to listen nonjudgementally, giving reassurance and information, encouraging appropriate professional help, encouraging self-help and other support strategies. 

At the end, participants receive a three-year certification in mental health first aid.

The NCMW website states four reasons to take this course: to be prepared, to be able to help, to educate that mental illnesses are common and to show that you care. 

“I thought it was very helpful in my role as a faculty member, a program director and department chair,” Mele said. “It wasn’t just having the knowledge behind me to be able to address crises in students, but it was also to be able to recognize it in my faculty as well as myself, and even in my teenage children and their friends.”

Hartford HealthCare trainers are leading the courses, but Patton hopes to soon have members of the Quinnipiac community become trainers. 

“What we are going to do is develop a train the trainer this summer,” she said. “Hopefully, ongoing, we’ll have our own trainers to be able to hold this, and not just end it in spring.”

This is the second training Patton brought to Quinnipiac thanks to her grant — the first one being the QPR training back in the fall 2023 semester — and she said she does not want these training to end. 

“One of the things that I found really interesting was asking somebody if they are thinking about suicide,” Mele said. “I never thought you could come right out and ask the question, but you have to. To hear that it was okay and not be afraid of it was actually pretty freeing.”

In October 2022, Quinnipiac was one of 400 schools to participate in the Healthy Minds Study conducted by the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. 

According to the key findings, 41% of respondents reported some form of depression, 36% admitted to anxiety disorders, 29% inflicted a nonsuicidal self-injury and 36% received any form of mental health counseling or therapy. 

College students are affected by a range of stressors, including academic and social pressure, balancing obligations and societal concerns, according to the American Psychiatric Association. With this in mind, Patton stressed the importance of access to resources.

“I would love for as many people in our community to be able to take on this opportunity,” Patton said. “Sometimes the eight hours is a commitment but when people are finished with it, I think the reward that they feel of getting that support and knowledge is just so helpful for them.”

Mele also argued that one does not need a specific reason to be able to attend. 

“It can be just for the people in your life that you are concerned about,” Mele said. “I don’t think there’s a reason that you won’t be able to set aside eight hours to be able to do the training.”

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