Resources for Supporting Students in Psychological Distress

Here are a few resources related to supporting students (and others) in psychological distress:

1. Trauma-Informed Practices for Postsecondary Education: A Guide (pdf)

2. Mental Health First Aid (MFHA), an 8 hour face-to-face training course:

MHFA is an evidence-based training program designed to instill participants with the necessary skills to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. MHFA’s action plan, summarized by the acronym ALGEE, is simple and easy to remember.
  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm
  • Listen non-judgmentally
  • Give reassurance and information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies

The primary focus of MHFA is not what the specific mental health issue is or naming the problem, but how to recognize when someone may be experiencing an issue and how provide assistance. MHFA is often compared to Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) since both programs focus on training individuals to become first aiders, not medical experts. Since the goal is to assess warning signs of mental health and substance abuse issues, and not become mental health experts, participants concern themselves with providing resources and encouraging professional-help and self-help. Remember, individuals trained in CPR don’t know if someone has had a heart attack, or some other medical issue, but they do know something is wrong. According to research studies, MHFA participants:

  • Understand the signs, symptoms, and risk factors of mental illnesses and addictions
  • Can identify multiple professional and self-help resources for individuals experiencing a mental health illness or addiction
  • Have increased confidence in assisting someone in distress
  • Demonstrate increased mental health wellness themselves

3. And see the article “Psychology And Trauma In Schools: How Can Teachers Help?

Dr. Raviv: From my perspective, the most important role a teacher plays is developing a strong relationship and intimate knowledge of his or her students: as learners, as individuals, and as members of their classroom community.
The first step of becoming trauma-informed is to understand the ways in which some of the behaviors that concern teachers–reactivity, social withdrawal, tardiness, and absenteeism—may be manifestations of traumatic exposure.  Viewing student behaviors through a “trauma lens” rather than labeling students as defiant, disengaged, or unmotivated opens the door for considering alternative strategies to connect to and support students and respond to these behaviors.
In our work with teachers and schools, we emphasize three key components that form the foundation for a trauma-sensitive classroom:
  • Creating safety (physical and emotional)
  • Emphasizing positive relationships
  • Supporting and teaching emotion regulation.

Faculty developer. Interests: developing educational technology; faculty & student development; learning sciences & psychology.

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Doug Holton

Doug Holton

Faculty developer. Interests: developing educational technology; faculty & student development; learning sciences & psychology.

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