Ozarks Technical Community College training teachers in mental health first aid

Updated: Aug. 15, 2021 at 7:40 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have found themselves struggling with their mental health.

Now, Ozarks Technical Community College is offering its teachers early intervention training to help students who could be struggling.

“What we know is that nationwide, about 39% of students college students report having some sort of mental health challenge or behavioral health issues,” said Dr. Tracy McGrady, OTC Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs

With the training, teachers at OTC will acquire the skills they need to address mental health challenges and guide their students to get the help they need. The college is offerings its teachers an opportunity to become certified in mental health first aid.

“Because our faculty are in the classrooms. They’re the ones who are interacting with students, the most of anyone else on our college campus,” said McGrady.

Like medical first aid, mental health first aid is early intervention and care until someone professionally trained and licensed in treating people can step in.

“We wouldn’t expect an instructor to solve those issues, but rather to recognize that there is an issue,” said Joan Barrett, OTC Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. “In this training for instructors to identify potential mental health issues, it’s about recognizing it and positively approaching a student about resources we have on campus.”

Teachers who complete the training will not be able to diagnose or treat students suffering from a mental disorder of substance use issue, but they will better understand the signs and symptoms that a student may be struggling.

“Students come to us from life. They don’t all leave their problems at the door,” Said Barrett. “So for some students who do have issues, we want to address those as the whole student and appreciate that those could be barriers to them finishing their educational goals.”

Part of the course also trains teachers on how to recognize if a student may be struggling with thoughts of suicide and how to have a difficult, but life-saving conversation to get them the help they need.

“It’s really important that they feel comfortable approaching a student,” said Barret. ”So that’s why it’s so important that our faculty have that training and really be able to know how to support our students.”

OTC also provides free mental health resources to students on campus including behavioral intervention and counseling services.

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