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Staff Trains for University of Minnesota Mental Health Program

MINNEAPOLIS — A few dozen University of Minnesota faculty members have started receiving training through a pilot program that organizers say can help promote mental health.

The new “mental health advocates” program teaches school faculty and staff how to look for signs of mental health issues primarily in students, the Minnesota Daily reported.

Advocates received a folder in their November training with tips on identifying distressed students, as well as best practices for responding to threatening or disruptive classroom behavior.

Disability Resource Center Director Donna Johnson said these advocates are not meant to serve as therapists, but rather people who can provide students with a variety of mental health resources on campus.

“The idea (is) to have a point person at the department or the college level … who knows everything about the resources,” psychology graduate student Lauren Mitchell said.

Johnson said advocates will also receive monthly emails relating to campus mental health services.

The advocates will partake in another training session in February, and the program will be evaluated at the end of the spring semester. If the program proves successful, Johnson said it could expand to more advocates.

“Many of them have been winging it or just doing the best that they can,” she said.

School of Public Health senior director Tim Kamenar said being an advocate felt natural because he previously served in the Disability Resource Center.

“I think it was a vital introduction to what exists on campus,” he said. “All too often there is that lack of (knowledge about) what exists … and that creates uncertainty.”

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