Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

Nov. 17, 2011 Volume 33, No. 13

MU to host Mental Health First Aid workshops


Workshops start Jan. 3 in Memorial Union

It’s easy to tell when someone might be suffering from a heart attack, is choking or is unable to breathe. But what does depression look like? How can anxiety be detected?

The University of Missouri Counseling Center will aim to answer those questions as part of a 12-hour course that will be offered for MU faculty and staff.

Christy Hutton of the MU Counseling Center and Sharon Thomas-Parks, CEO of Abacus Behavioral Consulting LLC, will lead the training of the campus community to improve mental health literacy. They will help to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness by hosting a pair of two-day workshops.

The first workshop will take place on Jan. 3 (1 p.m. to 5 p.m.) and Jan. 4 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) with the second session planned for Jan. 5 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Jan. 6 (8 a.m. to noon). The training will take place in Stotler Lounge of Memorial Union. Eighty spaces are available for each workshop. A registration form is available on the Counseling Center's website.

“We are thrilled to bring Mental Health First Aid to our campus,” says Hutton, a psychologist with the MU Counseling Center. “This important educational effort goes a lot further than emergency intervention; it really helps people understand the shroud of fear and misjudgment facing individuals and families who experience mental illnesses and addiction.”

Mental Health First Aid teaches participants a five-step action plan to assess a situation, select and implement interventions and secure appropriate care for the individual. The certification program introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact and overviews common treatments.

Thorough evaluations in randomized controlled trials and a quantitative study have proven the CPR-like program effective in improving trainees’ knowledge of mental disorders, reducing stigma and increasing the amount of help provided to others. 

“In my 25 years of clinical work I have seen so many people who have endured the symptoms of a mental health problem for years before getting the help they needed,” Thomas-Parks says. “Mental illnesses, just like physical illnesses, are common and they are treatable.”

Attendees will learn about the warning signs and risk factors for depression, anxiety disorders, trauma, psychotic disorders, eating disorders and substance use disorders. The workshop will also cover the available resources to help someone with a mental health disorder.

“We have done the training for our campus residential life staff and received very positive feedback about it,” Hutton says. “They found it informative and fun without being overwhelming.”

In its pilot year, the program was introduced in nearly 20 states and more than 40 communities nationwide. The National Council certified Hutton and Thomas-Parks to provide the Mental Health First Aid program through an instructor-certification course. MU and all the sites across the nation that replicate this program maintain strict fidelity to the original, proven program. 

“We welcome MU’s involvement and enthusiasm in the Mental Health First Aid community,” says Linda Rosenberg, the president and CEO of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, one of the organizations that brought Mental Health First Aid to the United States in 2008. “We know this will have a great impact on the mental health communities, and the University of Missouri will be a key player in improving mental health literacy nationwide.”

“Mental Health First Aid helps reduce the stigma that is associated with mental health problems and allows a person to get help earlier,” Thomas-Parks added. “Early intervention opens the door to living a more satisfying and fulfilling life.”