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Saint Paul College A Community & Technical College

Saint Paul College Launches Mental Health First Aid Initiative
photo of Mental Health cohort

Thirteen Staff and Administrators Receive MHFA Instructor Certification

Many of us have been trained in physical first aid, like CPR or basic lifesaving courses. But too few of us would know how to respond if we saw someone having a panic attack or were concerned that a friend or co-worker might be showing signs of substance abuse or at risk of suicide.

This is where learning Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) comes in. Like medical first aid, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an evidence-based training program administered by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing that teaches how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental health and substance use challenges. The skills-based training prepares participants to interact with people in need and connect them with appropriate help. Mental Health First Aiders do not diagnose or provide any counseling or therapy but are trained to answer critical questions, like “what do I do?” and “where can someone find help?”

Wendy Roberson, Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Saint Paul College, was instrumental in bringing this training to the College because it aligned with the institution's new mission, vision, and values.

“As a part of the College's commitment to become an anti-racist, trauma-informed institution, it is important that we provide members of our community opportunities to develop skills to support this commitment,” said Roberson. “Mental Health First Aid is one of those opportunities. The MHFA program provides culturally inclusive tools to evaluate, respond to and support members of our community experiencing mental challenges. This can help us move towards developing and sustaining a truly inclusive community.”

Saint Paul College invested in a cohort of 13 staff and administrators to be certified as instructors. Pamela Norling, Saint Paul College’s new mental health therapist, was among the group. She believes this training will have an immediate and long-term impact.

“I looked around the room and saw 13 other people committed to being deliberate in being well themselves and creating a well-focused community,” said Norling. “I thought, ‘Wow, there is going to be big reverb as this goes live. Not just for our college community, but in people’s individual lives - in their families and in their relationships with themselves and others.’ It's pretty sweet.”

Emma Kiley, the College’s Thrive SNAP E&T Coordinator, also participated in the instructor certification course. “There's no question as to whether Saint Paul College community members care about the mental health and wellbeing of our students, staff, faculty, and colleagues,” Kiley said. “The Mental Health First Aid training gives us the tools and the confidence we need to meaningfully notice signs and symptoms of a potential mental health challenge and intervene when necessary.”

Evidence shows training students, faculty, and administrators in higher education settings to recognize the symptoms of emerging mental illnesses or to assist young adults in a mental health crisis can help lessen the impact of mental illnesses.

The Mental Health First Aid course gives people the skills to help someone who is developing a mental health issue or experiencing a crisis. The evidence behind the program demonstrates that it does build mental health literacy, helping the public identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness.

The College aims at training all faculty and staff in Mental Health First Aid by July 2023. The College’s longer-term goal is to provide the option for students to receive the training.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to

Founded in 1969, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing is a membership organization that drives policy and social change on behalf of nearly 3,500 mental health and substance use treatment organizations and the more than 10 million children, adults and families they serve. They advocate for policies to ensure equitable access to high-quality services. They build the capacity of mental health and substance use treatment organizations. And they promote greater understanding of mental wellbeing as a core component of comprehensive health and health care. Through the Mental Health First Aid program, they have trained more than 2.5 million people in the U.S. to identify, understand and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges.

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