Students participate in mental health training

December 21, 2017
Jill Kluesner
Lisa Emendorfer
Students participating in the training

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Thirty-five University of Wisconsin-Platteville Department of Health and Human Performance students, faculty and staff recently gained knowledge in how to support individuals in mental health crisis and non-crisis situations during a “Mental Health First Aid” training in Williams Fieldhouse.

The training, sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Performance, was coordinated by Lisa Emendorfer, senior lecturer of curriculum and community engagement at UW-Platteville. Student participants were from all three health and human performance emphases: physical education teaching, health promotion-wellness and exercise science. A graduate student from counseling services also participated.

Jill Kluesner, a Mental Health First Aid National Trainer and Quality Evaluator for the National Council for Behavioral Health, led the training. She holds a master’s in rehabilitation counseling, specializing in mental health counseling, from the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

In addition to learning how to support individuals experiencing or developing a mental health concern, participants learned the potential warning signs and risk factors for depression, suicide, anxiety disorders, substance use disorders and disorders in which psychosis may occur. Kluesner discussed a five-step action plan to help individuals connect to appropriate professional care and resources available.

Emendorfer explained that the training program is evidence-based, and has a proven ability to teach individuals how to recognize and respond to the warning signs of mental illness and substance use disorders and link people with appropriate treatment and support.

“We all know, generally, what to do if someone breaks a leg, but unfortunately, few of us know what to do if someone is having a mental health crisis,” said Emendorfer. “This training provided attendees with the skills they will need to act in mental health crisis situations. The mix of faculty, staff and students allowed for shared responsibility in working with university students, friends and community members to help them, and each other, in times of mental health crisis.”

Emendorfer stressed that the program increases the understanding that mental illnesses are real, common and treatable. “The program emphasizes recovery and resiliency – the belief that individuals experiencing these challenges can and do get better, and use their strengths to stay well,” she said.

Thanks to the training, students now feel empowered to act, if and when situations arise in which their friends, coworkers, students/clients or community members are struggling.

“The training laid a foundation and depth of knowledge to consider a career in a mental health field,” said Emendorfer. “It provided students with knowledge and skills that they can apply with future students and clients. Having this knowledge helps them feel more prepared if the situation arises.”

Mallory Busch, a senior health and human performance-health promotion-wellness major with a double minor in biology and psychology at UW-Platteville, said she enjoyed the sense of community that was developed at the training.

“Mental health is a topic not many people are educated on or openly talk about,” said Busch. “Over the course of the day, I felt everyone in the room became much more self-aware and open to those around them. I noticed students who never talked to each other bouncing around ideas and sharing information about themselves they had never shared before. It was a very educational and humbling experience.”
 
Busch, who is planning to pursue a career in the mental health profession, said the training helped prepare her for the future by giving her practical communication skills she can use with her future clients. “I now feel I have a jump start on effective tools to work with, and communicate with, those around me and will be able recognize when individuals may need help,” she said.

Kluesner said she was incredibly impressed by an overall sense of community and support by faculty, staff and students. “It is obvious UW-Platteville is a campus community where faculty, staff and students support one another,” she said. “Thank you, UW-Platteville, for recognizing the importance of supporting the mental health of faculty, staff and students.”

The training, which is included on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices, was made possible with support from the College of Liberal Arts and Education’s High Impact Practice Fund, Academic Staff Professional Development Fund and Dean’s Fund.

UW-Platteville faculty and staff who participated in the training included Emendorfer; Tim Swenson, senior lecturer in adapted physical education; Renee Ringgenberg, senior lecturer and fitness specialist; Dr. Scott Ringgenberg, associate professor of health and human performance; and Delores Trumpy, program assistant for the Department of Health and Human Performance.

Written by: Laurie A. Hamer, University Relations Specialist, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191, hamerl@uwplatt.edu

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