Lehigh University held Mental Health First Aid training sessions for faculty during March to address growing concerns regarding the mental health of students.
Faculty have reported that students are increasingly raising concerns about their mental health, specifically their ability to deal with stress and anxiety, according to an email announcement sent to faculty from Provost Nathan Urban. The email stated that this is consistent with national trends and reports from university counseling centers.
In order to prepare faculty to recognize and address these issues, the university brought in representatives from Community Services Group Inc., an organization providing community-based mental health services, to lead Mental Health First Aid training workshops.
The email stated that Mental Health First Aid is a course teaching how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.
Urban said this training was implemented in response to administration receiving increasing numbers of questions from concerned faculty members about students describing mental health challenges to faculty.
“We want to make sure that students are in a good place in terms of their mental health so that they can get the most out of their college experience,” Urban said.
Lisa Basci, the director of peer support and mental health first aid at Community Services Group Inc., led the faculty through an evidence-based course alongside Peg Schwartz, director of behavioral services at Community Services Group Inc..
“What we are training people to do is to recognize early that people are experiencing some challenge or (are) in a middle of a crisis,” Basci said. “And then being able to respond to that much like we train people in CPR and first aid.”
Basci said Lehigh reaching out to Community Services Group Inc. was proactive in addressing the mental health of students as they continue to navigate the pandemic.
The training was free of charge for faculty and offered in two sessions: one full day session on March 16, and a second session held on two consecutive half-days on March 29 and March 30. Each session accommodated a maximum of 25 faculty members.
Basci said she hopes the training will build the faculty’s level of confidence when it comes to interacting with their students.
“I’m hoping that by building mental health literacy, they will be better prepared to both recognize that something is not OK for a student and assist that student to go get the support that they need,” Basci said.
Director of Communications at Community Services Group Inc. Elspeth Moffatt credited Lehigh for being able to have an honest conversation about students’ mental health.
“One of the goals of Mental Health First Aid is not only to give you sort of the ability to notice warning signs, but also to really approach the conversation of mental health and mental health challenges and the fact that it’s OK to not be OK,” Moffatt said.
Basci said the more conversations the university has about mental health, the less stigmatizing it will become. She said these conversations will allow for more open dialogues to take place on campus about what good mental health is.
Urban said Lehigh has been trying to further increase the availability of mental health services for students, including the addition of more staff to the counseling center and providing students with access to mental health telehealth resources.
“There’s no stigma attached to having a broken ankle, but there unfortunately is some stigma that’s currently attached to having to struggle with mental health and there shouldn’t be,” Urban said.