HSC SPH students gain skills, certification through mental health first aid training course

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Nadya Jwa with her Mental Health Training CertificationMore than one in five U.S. adults today are affected by mental health-related difficulties. On average, 130 people die by suicide every day, and during the years from 1999 to 2019, more than 840,000 people died from drug overdoses. In 2019, the World Health Organization said 970 million people globally were living with a mental disorder, most commonly anxiety and depression.

To combat this growing public health crisis, graduate students at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth’s School of Public Health are now gaining skills through a mental health first aid training program in how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental health and substance use challenges among adults. This certification program trains students in ways of reaching out and providing initial help and support to those who may be exhibiting a concerning mental health or substance use condition or experiencing a crisis.

A total of 16 first- and second-year SPH students, along with one PhD student, completed the first training course in February. This program is planned as an ongoing initiative for all SPH students moving forward.

Training and certification is provided through a University of North Texas at Dallas program called HOPE – “Helping Our People Everyday” – designed for a diverse group of community members, including students, educators, veterans, emergency service providers, law enforcement and aging service providers. Through a $625,000 mental health awareness training grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, UNT Dallas provides this training free of charge.

To date, more than 2.6 million people in the U.S. have received this mental health first aid training. Peer-reviewed studies from the U.S. and across the globe show that the program improves the mental health of both the individual administering care and the one receiving it, expands knowledge of mental health challenges and their treatments, increases the services provided and reduces overall stigma toward individuals with mental health or substance-use challenges by improving mental health literacy.

“This course can help our students make a tremendous impact on saving lives and strengthening the health and wellbeing of our community,” said Dr. Shafik Dharamsi, SPH dean.

“Through our school’s new strategic plan – IMPACT 2030: Commitment to Community – we are focused on ensuring that our students become well prepared to protect the health and conditions of life in North Texas, the nation and the world. This is one of the ways they can make an important difference as they enter their careers.”


From HSC Newsroom - Community by Sally Crocker