“I feel there are many negative stigmas attached to mental health among all groups,” said Michelle McChesney, a graduate student in the Professional Counseling Program. “In general, people see mental health challenges as a weakness. Many people who struggle with mental illness feel ashamed of who they are.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, approximately one in five adults, or 43.8 million people in the United States, experience mental illness in a given year. One in 25 adults, or 9.8 million people, experience a serious mental illness that interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
In an attempt to combat the lack of discussion and negative stigma associated with mental health, two events will take place on campus: Question, Persuade, Refer Training and Youth Mental Health First Aid.
At QPR training, which is sponsored by the UW Oshkosh Women’s Rugby Club, attendees will learn how to question, persuade and refer a person who may be suffering from suicidal thoughts. QPR training will take place at 7 p.m. on Nov. 8 in the Reeve Memorial Union Theatre.
Mariah Koenig, the coordinator of the QPR training session and a member of the UWO Women’s Rugby Club is working with Lynnsey Erickson from the Winnebago County Health Department to put on the event.
“People will learn how to offer hope to friends and family who may be suicidal and possibly save lives,” Koenig said.
Koenig said she wants to provide hope, to not just people struggling with their mental health, but also the friends and family around them.
“There is something you can do. You don’t have to sit by. You can decide to [get] the person help and work through a dark time in their life,” Koenig said.
Sydney Denk, a member of the UWO Women’s Rugby Club who plans to attend the QPR training, said she believes there is a negative stigma attached to mental health.
“Mental health can be an intimidating topic to bring up, but this training is put in place to help be prepared to confront it,” Denk said. “QPR training can empower people to save lives and reduce suicidal behaviors by providing innovative, practical and proven suicide prevention training.”
UWO women’s rugby coach Cat Lewis said she believes that mental health is an issue that can affect any student, athlete, family member or friend.
“As a team, we are supportive on and off the field, and it’s important to recognize warning signs for those who may need help and are struggling with depression,” Lewis said. “Any training that we can get to help potentially save a life is important to our club.”
The second event aiming to raise awareness and educate about mental illness is Youth Mental Health First Aid, taking place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 9 in Nursing/Education Room 230.
Youth Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based training course designed to give members of the public key skills to help an adolescent who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis.
McChesney said she attended Youth Mental Health First Aid training over the summer and benefited greatly from the program. As a result, McChesney organized a Youth Mental Health First Aid training session for the campus community.
“Today, many of our youth are experiencing crises daily, but many people don’t know how to respond,” McChesney said. “This training will educate participants on how to remain calm and take the proper steps to help youth.”
The eight-hour course will introduce mental health challenges that youth commonly face, review the typical adolescent development stages and teach a five-step plan for how to help youth in crisis and non-crisis situations. Attendees will learn how to help when someone is having a panic attack, contemplating suicide or struggling with substance use.
“This training will educate on how to remain calm and take the proper steps to help youth,” McChesney said. “Attendees will learn what steps to take when a mental health crisis is recognized and be provided resources to connect youth to professional help.”
The free training is funded through the Department of Public Instruction Project AWARE grant. Youth Mental Health First Aid training will be led by two trained professionals.
“Many people who struggle with mental illness feel ashamed of who they are,” McChesney said. “I hope this training helps make our community more comfortable with mental illness and enhances our understanding of how to help.”