Oct/6/2014 | by Dan Musgrave
Bright and early on Monday, October 6, Jermine Alberty and Rachel Christiansen introduced themselves to nearly 30 new Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) trainees. The training was held at ITE as part of Mental Health Awareness Week. It was open to anyone who was interested, including UMSL faculty, staff and students, and neighboring communities, including Ferguson. Discussions of mental health issues, crises, and appropriate responses and treatments were the focus, interspersed with opportunities for participants to relate the course material to their own experiences. Coffee and soda were available for those who needed it, but for the most part all students, faculty and staff arrived ready to jump into the training.
“I heard about it through an email from our department,” one participant said. “I thought [the training] would be good and applicable if I found a position in the workforce after graduating.”
Though it would be easy to assume the psychology department dominated the registration for the course, the trainees were a diverse group. Amongst those present, there were representatives from all corners of the university and beyond. At least one UMSL student heard about the course while at an art show.
“There have been some situations where you want to know what to do when someone is depressed or even suicidal,” the student said about his motivation to take the course. “This is the perfect experience. I want to be able to notice the signs and be trained in how to approach someone because that can be awkward and difficult.”
From mental health professionals to UMSL faculty to students, the sentiment was fairly uniform: MHFA training provided each with the foundation they needed help persons developing mental illness or experiencing a crisis.
When 5:00 PM hits and the new MHFA practitioners file out of ITE with certificates in hand, they will only be the first class to do so. Registration for the course had to be closed early due to being at capacity, despite further interest. Given the demand for such training from UMSL and its community neighbors, Alberty and Christiansen know they can expect several more early mornings of MHFA at ITE in the not too distant future.