Mental health training available for Fanshawe staff

Recognizing symptoms of a mental illness in others can be a difficult task, but with the high rate of anxiety and other disorders in post-secondary students, being able to recognize and assist them is becoming a valuable skill.

Fanshawe faculty have clearly taken an interest in helping students manage their mental illnesses according to Nikki Ross, a counsellor at the Woodstock/ Oxford regional campus. She runs a workshop sponsored by the Mental Health Commission of Canada called Mental Health First Aid which offers first responder training to someone dealing with a mental health crisis. Ross said the goal of the commission is to have all adults trained in mental health first aid because of the “rise in vulnerability” she sees in students.

“It’s not therapy, it’s not ongoing necessarily, and you don’t have to be a counsellor or a psychotherapist or a psychologist to administer it,” Ross said.

The goal is to prepare staff to be better equipped to respond and to help students find the resources and help they need, Ross said. The training focuses on assessing risk of harm, listening skills, how to properly give reassurance and then accessing the appropriate professional support.

Ross uses scenarios to teach faculty how to respond to a variety of potential situations of a mental health crisis. One example they use is a situation where an instructor is approached by a student who says they are dealing with panic and anxiety attacks. The workshop guides the instructor on how to properly manage the situation and guide the student to find appropriate help.

“[The training] will allow them to work with that student and hopefully get them to the appropriate place they need to be to for some further help,” Ross said.

Ross said the workshop, which runs for two full days, runs through various scenarios to help faculty prepare for a variety of situations.

The next workshop will run on Oct. 19 and Oct. 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for any interested faculty members at Fanshawe. Ross said the response from Fanshawe faculty has been terrific and has received comments that the workshop should be a regular and routine part of faculty training.

“I’m finding more and more faculty and staff at the college are reporting that they’re seeing more students who might be struggling or might be in crisis and sometimes they’re not feeling equipped to handle that,” Ross said. She hopes the Mental Health First Aid workshop will provide the information concerned staff are looking for.