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UNC Charlotte Offers Mental Health First Aid Training for Students, Faculty and Staff

Mental Health First Aid Training
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By Wyatt Crosher, Communications Coordinator for Student Affairs

This past fall, UNC Charlotte’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) expanded its Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training, an eight-hour program designed to introduce participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental illnesses and substance use.

Sarah Besse, Mental Health Educator and Coordinator of Suicide Prevention for CAPS, said extra funding over the summer allowed the University to bring in MHFA training, and that she’s really excited about the launch of the service. 

"The training is really meant to be comprehensive and address different mental health concerns, particularly those that are common to college students,” Besse said. “There is information around how to identify anxiety and depression, demystifying psychosis, particularly because there are a lot of myths and misperceptions around psychosis, and then there's a strong focus on suicidal ideation and self harm, and how to assess what's going on.”

MHFA training utilizes a mnemonic device called ALGEE: Assess the risk for harm, Listen non judgmentally, Give reassurance and information, Encourage appropriate professional help and Encourage self-help and other support strategies.

Besse said ALGEE guides students, faculty and staff through the different steps and concerns people may encounter regarding mental health. She also said that the training has received positive responses from on-campus resident advisors (RA) who have gone through it.

"We just trained all of the RAs with MHFA at the beginning of this semester, and the feedback was pretty positive,” Besse said. “That's a group of students that get more training on this topic area anyway, but I think the feedback we received that stood out to me was that ALGEE mnemonic, and this idea of it not being so linear, really helped them understand what their personal capacity could be.

“It also helped them know how to recognize when concerns were beyond their personal capacity. It gave them a way to ask themselves, ‘When is it something I can listen and provide support for, and when do I need to call in somebody who can help at a higher level?’”

Besee said the hope for MHFA is to offer hybrid options for the training in the spring, allowing for virtual and in-person trainings. Upcoming sessions can be found on the CAPS website. The next virtual sessions for staff and faculty are from 1:15-4:15 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 4 and Friday, Feb. 11. The next dates for students are also virtual from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 7 and Wednesday, Feb. 9.

It is a free training session, and one that Besse believes is beneficial for all of Niner Nation to utilize.

“This is an internationally recognized training program, it is supported by the UNC System Office and is offered on campuses across the state. If you were to go out and try to take this in the community, it would cost you around $250-300, and it's being offered to our faculty, staff and students for free,” Besse said. “This is a great skill-building resume builder for our students and for our community, and I hope that they take advantage of that because what a great resource to be able to utilize. We are really trying to invest in them, not only for their time here to help build our community of care on campus, but to give them the skills once they leave Charlotte to be able to continue to foster that community of care wherever they go.” 

“We want people to recognize Niners as those who are supportive of mental health and know what to do when somebody is in distress."