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Training Helps College Students Respond to Psychiatric Crises Study Finds


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Mental Health First Aid

Training Helps College Students Respond to Psychiatric Crises, Study Finds

Washington, DC, Feb. 28—A training program to teach college students how to recognize and respond to potential mental health crises was effective for resident advisors (RAs) who took the training, according to a study presented last month at the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators Mental Health Conference in Atlanta.

The study, “Mental Health First Aid: Outcomes Evaluation Strategies,” found that RAs who were trained reported increased confidence in recognizing and responding to developing mental health problems and crisis situations, had greater knowledge of mental illnesses and had positive beliefs about treatment. Ninety-nine percent said they would recommend the training to others.

For students who were not trained, there was no change in use of mental health services, interactions with RAs regarding mental health, symptoms of mental illnesses or use of campus counseling centers.

The study, conducted by Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education and the University of Michigan School of Public Health, was sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health. The training involved some 470 RAs on 33 campuses nationwide over winter break of the 2010-2011 school year. More than 7,600 students participated in pre-test surveys in fall 2010, and more than 5,300 participated in post-test surveys in spring 2011.

“Students, faculty and staff at colleges frequently encounter people who may be having a mental illness or crisis, and Mental Health First Aid teaches how to help them,” says Bryan Gibb, director of public education at the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. “The training emphasizes that mental illnesses are real, common, treatable and that help is available.”

Today more than 30 percent of college students receive mental health services at some time from counselors, psychologists or therapists, according to the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment 2010.

Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based program, which uses role-playing and simulations to demonstrate how to assess a mental health crisis, select interventions and provide initial help. The training also addresses the risk factors and warning signs of specific illnesses like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and substance use disorders.

Nationwide, more than 45,000 people have been trained through a network of 1,800 certified instructors since the program was introduced in the U.S. in 2008.


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Keywords: College Students, Crises, Psychiatric

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