Mental Health First Aid Certification training equips faculty and staff with the tools necessary to help at-risk students


Professor Linda Kushner whispers into the ear of Learning Disabilities Instructor Sile Bassi during the Mental Health First Aid Certification session on Thursday, Feb. 6, in LMC 125. The activity was meant to simulate what a conversation is like with schizophrenia. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

By Morgan Ellis

The Moorpark College Health Center hosted a Mental Health First Aid Certification training on Thursday, Feb. 6, from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. This served as the second part to an eight hour total session needed for certification.

Staff and faculty from the county were able to listen as two professionals from the Health Center led the meeting. Using curriculum sponsored by the National Council for Behavioral Health, Allison Barton and Dena Stevens went in depth about mental health struggles, with topics ranging from suicide risk awareness to traumatic events and substance use disorders.

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Daniela Guevara watches the instructor at the Mental Health Certification class on Thursday, Feb. 6. Guevara is a English and ESL teacher at Moorpark College. Photo credit: Kari Cramer

“Mental health cannot only be a Student Health Center responsibility,” Sharon Manakas, student health services coordinator at Moorpark College stated. “There’s a lot that our campus can do to help support the mental well-being of our students.”

The trainers embraced various methods of teaching to provide participants the most out of the session. There was an open discussion where any and all questions were answered, simulated scenarios for them to work through, as well as exercises that got them involved and in the mindset of an individual that may be struggling.

“Our goals are to give participants the skills they need to assess that someone is experiencing a mental health issue, respond to the person appropriately, and help them find professional and other kinds of help,” Barton said.

Dena Stevens, left, and Allison Barton teach the Mental Health Certification class on Thursday, Feb. 6, in the LMC. Both tevens and Barton work in the Health Center on campus. Photo credit: Kari Cramer

With the stresses of the real world weighing on the shoulders of students, as well as recent tragedies such as the Borderline shooting and rampant wildfires within the last two years, educators feel that it is important to be equipped with the tools to guide students in the right direction, whether it’s short term or on going mental health support.

“I’ve noticed that there are more and more students who seem to have emotional type problems … anxiety, problems that are being discussed in this class. I want to be able to recognize it and deal properly with it,” mentioned Nick Zingo, a criminal justice professor at Moorpark College and California State University, Northridge.

Professor Zingo was one of 18 staff and faculty members who attended the training, eager to learn in order to better equip themselves as well as their respective campuses as a whole.

“It’s about the students,” Zingo said. “Whether it’s education or if they’re having some type of mental or emotional issues, getting them the help they need.”

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Nick Zingo, criminal justice professor, expands on different coping mechanisms during the Mental Health First Aid Certification training on Thursday, Feb. 6. Zingo suggested a few way in which an educator can help a student in obvious need of mental care. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Barton expressed her high hopes for the faculty members who attended the training.

“Most important, they will have learned some important skills that could save a life, help someone in need and at a minimum, reduce stigma about mental health,” Barton said.