Mental Health First Aid

Participants in a Mental Health First Aid training session.
Participants in a Mental Health First Aid training session.

Mental health facts

5%  Prevalence of serious mental illness among people ages 18 to 25

14  Age by which half of all chronic mental illness begins

24  Age by which three-fourths of all chronic mental illness begins

15 to 34  Age group in which suicide is the second leading cause of death

Years to decades  Typical time between first appearance of symptoms and when people get help

Sources: National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Institute of Mental Health.

More than 300 faculty and staff at URI are now certified in the essentials of a program that aims to help people recognize the signs of mental illness, listen without judgment to those experiencing it, assess risk of harm or suicide, provide information and reassurance, and encourage self-help—or professional intervention, if indicated.

The program is called Mental Health First Aid, and it was already being offered by South County Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, a collaborative that serves nine R.I. municipalities. URI Provost Donald H. DeHayes is on the collaborative’s steering committee, and it struck him that with URI’s approximately 18,000 students, the campus needed to participate.

With the assistance of Susan Orban, director of Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, a dozen faculty and staff spent eight hours being certified as Mental Health First Aid trainers last spring. They, in shorter sessions, have instructed more than 300 others at URI in the essentials of the program. They are now spreading out through the URI community.

Like every other college and university in the state, URI offers an array of counseling and treatment services to its students and employees. Some have chapters of Active Minds, a student-led support organization. But URI is apparently the first and so far only institution of higher learning in Rhode Island to roll out Mental Health First Aid. •