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Training will certify thousands of faculty, staff and students

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – As part of an ongoing effort to address rising mental health needs among students, the University of North Carolina System will pilot Mental Health First Aid training for staff, faculty, students, and campus police across the state.

The first three-day class began this week. In the coming academic year, more than 10,000 people are expected to participate in the training at campuses across North Carolina.

The growing incidence of mental health issues among young people has been well documented across the country, and it presents an urgent challenge to colleges and universities. The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund included a $5 million grant to expand mental health services for students statewide, and roughly $1 million of that funding will go toward the Mental Health First Aid initiative. The UNC System, the NC Community College System and independent colleges that participate in the state’s need-based scholarship program are eligible for the training.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) refers to the initial support offered to someone struggling with a mental health challenge or a substance abuse issue. The training is designed to help individuals who do not have a professional background in mental health recognize the signs of an emerging issue and provide effective, early support to students or colleagues. At any given time, students are more likely to have direct contact on campus with peers, professors, or other support staff than with a licensed and trained mental health professional. Ensuring that more people have Mental Health First Aid training is a way to build a more alert, more caring campus culture.

“All of us have a role to play,” said UNC System President Peter Hans. “We must do our part to build a supportive culture and show compassion for our fellow students, our friends, and our colleagues. Making this training more widely available will help us get to a place where those of us who are struggling can ultimately thrive.”

The initiative includes two levels of training: Instructor Training and the MHFA Basic Course. This fall, the UNC System will offer 15 three-day instructor courses, reaching a total of 240 participants. Once certified, instructors must teach an MHFA course at least three times per year to maintain their certification, ensuring the program reaches a growing audience. Throughout the academic year, 360 classes will provide qualifications for 10,000 Mental Health First Aid certified faculty, staff and students.

The MHFA Basic Course covers information about recognizing warning signs and offering initial support for those who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem. Participants in the course will gain an understanding about how to guide people to the appropriate professional care.

Training includes:

• Common signs and symptoms of mental illness

• Common signs and symptoms of substance abuse

• How to interact with a person in crisis

• How to connect the person with help

Learn more about the Mental Health First Aid Program: