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Mental health first aid training trending on college campuses across Cleveland

Posted at 4:13 PM, May 10, 2017

The stress of attending college is taking a toll on the mental health of students. As demand for counseling soars, colleges and universities in Northeast Ohio are trying to tackle the issue in the classroom.

Cleveland State University is just one campus receiving specialized first aid training.

It’s training that helps faculty, staff and students recognize the warning signs of mental illness, as well as how to help those struggling get connected with live-saving resources.

"I don't really need a counselor because I am not crazy enough," said Brittany Carbaugh, CSU student. It's just one of the stigma-building phrases Carbaugh hears quite frequently on the campus of CSU.

"You hear the word 'crazy' a lot," said Carbaugh.

As many of her fellow classmates crack under the pressure of college life, appointments to the counseling center at CSU are up 10% from just the fall semester.

"We had some part-time counselors so we're not feeling as burned out as we were last semester as a staff," said Counseling Center Director Katharine Oh.

Disturbing data

  • More than 11 percent of college students have been diagnosed or treated for anxiety in the past year
  • More than 10 percent reported being diagnosed or treated for depression
    More than 40 percent of college students have felt more than an average amount of stress within the past 12 months
  • More than 80 percent of college students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do in the past year
  • 45 percent have felt things were hopeless
  • Almost 73 percent of students living with a mental health condition experienced a mental health crisis on campus

Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

To help a staff already stretched thin, a growing number of faculty, students and staff at CSU are signing up for mental health first aid training.

"Just like regular first aid, CPR, we want people to be able to feel the same way as helping someone with a mental illness," said Arnetta Matthews of Recovery Resources.

Recovery Resources is using a $360,000 grant to roll out the training at CSU and seven other local colleges and universities.

"Recognizing signs and symptoms, possible referral sources, how to approach a person exhibiting signs and symptoms," said Matthews.

Right now, the 8-hour class at CSU is voluntary.

"Our staff and faculty are working so hard, that if there isn't a legal mandate for it, it can fall to the bottom of the list," said Oh.

Some people who have been through the training, like Carbaugh, want to make the training a requirement.

"I think we're moving in that direction. I think it should be. This is on the job training. This needs to be mandatory," said Carbaugh.

While this potentially life-saving mental health training is happening at colleges and universities, the idea is that our entire community benefits.

Students and staff will carry what they learned off campus and will be better prepared to help in a time of crisis wherever they may be.

Recovery Resources tells News 5 so far they’ve certified 236 people in Mental Health First Aid across Northeast Ohio.