SUNY Potsdam Staff Complete Mental Health First Aid Training

SUNY Potsdam Employees in Critical Areas Complete Training in Mental Health First Aid

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POTSDAM, NY (08/08/2018) SUNY Potsdam University Police officers and support staff recently gathered for an intensive Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training designed specifically to assist law enforcement agencies. The training was just one of many that Counseling Center Director Gena Nelson has led with College employees over the past year.

By the end of the fall semester, every member of the SUNY Potsdam University Police department will have completed the training. In addition, Nelson, who is a certified MHFA trainer, has led sessions with professional staff working in Residence Life, Campus Life and in the Center for Diversity. Members of the President's Council are also set to complete the training this fall as well.

University Police Chief Timothy Ashley II said that his department was completing the course as part of its commitment to the One Mind Campaign, sponsored by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The One Mind Campaign is designed to improve police response to persons affected by mental illness. One of the strategies is to have all officers complete the MHFA training for public safety.

Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour course that gives people the skills to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis.

Just as CPR training helps a person with no clinical training assist an individual following a heart attack, MHFA training helps a person assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis, such as contemplating suicide. In both situations, the goal is to help support an individual until appropriate professional help arrives. Participants learn a single five-step strategy that includes assessing risk, respectfully listening to and supporting the individual in crisis, and identifying appropriate professional help and other supports.

In addition to leading MHFA training for campus employees, Nelson is also working on opening up the certification for students, as part of a new campus leadership initiative.

To learn more about Mental Health First Aid, visit

About SUNY Potsdam:

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America's first 50 colleges -- and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit