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Upon entering their freshman year of college, students might be prepared for certain health crises, whether involving a broken bone or too much alcohol. But sometimes, the stress of school can trigger problems that go beyond the physical. As a way to raise awareness of these problems and help students better learn what to do in these situations, the Community Mental Health Center for Mideastern Iowa is aiming to implement something called Mental Health First Aid in University of Iowa residence halls.

As The Daily Iowan reports, it is a 12-hour certification course that aims to teach people how to recognize the early signs of mental illness; it has already been implemented in workplaces, community centers and schools. The program began in Australia and is now being in taught in 14 countries.

“We could just provide them with another tool,” said Stephen Trefz, the executive director of the Community Mental Health Center for Mideastern Iowa. “Not to be mental-health professionals, not to be counselors, not to be psychiatrists … but to be able to be alert to those [symptoms].”

For example, The Iowan points out, if a student’s roommate “is excessively anxious, a friend stops eating or a neighbor begins sleeping all day,” it is important for them to know how to react in the situation and get them the help they need.

“The entering students have unique kinds of stresses: new environment, new academics,” said Sam Cochran, the director of University Counseling Services. “We want to be sure we’re creating safety nets for them.”

Source: The Daily Iowan

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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