On Saturday, April 7, the Counseling and Psychological Services Center hosted a Mental Health First Aid certification course educating students over an eight-hour period about the perils of mental illness and how to help someone struggling with things like depression or anxiety. This course contained invaluable information while working towards reducing the stigma surrounding all types of mental health issues, from drug abuse to self-harm. Guidance through role playing scenarios, group projects and interactive videos demonstrated what certain mental health problems can look like and the best ways to help people who are dealing with them.

Becoming certified in First Aid for Mental Health should be emphasized just as much as being certified in CPR training, especially because you’re much more likely to come across someone struggling with a mental illness than you are someone having a heart attack. According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, roughly one in four Americans suffer each year from a mental illness or addiction,.

Being Mental Health First Aid certified is especially important at the college level. According to the Suicide Prevention Research Center, suicide is a leading cause of death among college students in the United States. By becoming familiar with the signs and symptoms of such disorders as depression, substance abuse and anxiety, peers are able to assist fellow students who may be struggling with a mental health problem. The best way to learn these signs and then accurately and helpfully react to them is by becoming certified in Mental Health First Aid.

Becoming certified doesn’t make anyone an expert on assisting someone struggling with a serious mental disorder. The course emphasizes that simply being certified doesn’t qualify you to diagnose or label anyone as having a certain disorder or recommend the best treatment options for them. However, it does give students the confidence to reach out to someone they believe may be struggling. By equipping students with the tools and certainty to have these important discussions about mental health, First Aid training opens the door to recognizing mental health as a real problem that has no easy or quick fix.

Every person should consider becoming Mental Health First Aid certified. It is more than a skill to put on a resume. Instead, it is an ability that allows you to recognize and help someone in need. Mental Health First Aid certification is one step in destigmatizing mental health. It won’t fix the myriad of issues surrounding mental health treatment and culture, but it’s a good place to start.