Counseling Center to teach free mental health courses


The Counseling Center is located in Room C104 of the Oakley Applied Science Building

Ava Chuppe, Staff Writer

Starting this semester, the Counseling Center will switch from guest speakers to University personnel in its free Mental Health First Aid courses. The courses are offered for all faculty and staff, including student workers.

Tentative dates for the course include Sept. 23, Oct. 25, Dec. 12 and Dec. 13. All courses will be conducted in person from 8.30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Lunch will be provided.

The course is open for anyone with interest in learning about how to recognize when another individual is struggling with mental health concerns and how to respond appropriately in those situations. It is interactive with the opportunity for participants to engage in small group discussions.

More people are still struggling with mental health than usual because of the pandemic, Angie Trzepacz, director of the Counseling Center, said.

“We can’t really expect just the Counseling Center to be the only people on campus who deal with mental health,” Trzepacz said. “We want the administration, faculty, staff, other students, everybody to take part in prioritizing … and being aware of mental health.”

Trzepacz said while it is important to address mental health concerns, she advises those helping others to take care of themselves as well.

“A lot of how to respond appropriately is just about having empathy, compassion and patience and trying to be available for people,” Trzepacz said.

In the past, the Counseling Center has used a grant from the state to host guest speakers. However, severe weather during the spring 2021 semester presented an obstacle to the training. The Center no longer utilizes the grant, instead making use of its own resources to train attendees

Trzepacz became certified to perform the training herself over the summer. She said it improved the process because she can point participants to specific resources available both on campus and in the Murray community.

“It’s hard trying to find people who are available and can make it into their schedules, but I have also been super impressed with how many people have made time for it because it is an entire day,” Trzepacz said.

Trzepacz said she has received several comments from people who thought the course was helpful in previous years.

“It’s been really nice to see how many people are interested, to see how many people already do know a lot about mental health and how to be helpful and to be able to sit down and have a conversation with them,” Trzepacz said.

The program also aims to reach students outside the classroom environment.

Matt Kelly, senior associate athletics director, said the University encourages all coaches to go through the process and become certified in Mental Health First Aid, even though it is not required.

“When we hire new coaches, we connect them to the process and encourage them to go through the class and become certified at their first opportunity,” Kelly said. “We think that this certification is very important to our coaching staff building healthy relationships with student athletes and also having an ability to recognize any signs of distress.”

Kathy Callahan, chair of the Department of History, was one of several dozen faculty members who have gone through the course in the past.

“The experience was very good,” Callahan said. “ I thought the interchange of faculty and staff during the event was really good, and it gave us all the opportunity to share our current experiences with students.”

Callahan said faculty and staff have likely had as many challenges with anxiety and depression as students have through the pandemic.

“In addition to trying to develop a new level of understanding [of] how to help students, I want to be able to help the faculty in my department, too,” Callahan said.

Callahan said the program gave her more skills to help students and others cope with the challenges the University community has faced over the past few years.

“I would recommend all faculty and staff sign up,” Callahan said.

All faculty or staff interested in Mental Health First Aid can sign up by emailing Director Angie Trzepacz at [email protected].