Campus Life

Workshop Teaches Skills in 'Mental Health First Aid' April 26

By Janelle Hyatt |

Derrick Tollefson, head of the Department of Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology, said the department in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences is hosting a workshop to help individuals be better prepared when interacting with individuals in mental distress and possibly suicidal. The workshop by Mental Health First Aid, a national organization, will be April 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in USU's Eccles Conference Center.

Picture this: The guy standing in the grocery checkout line in front of you tumbles to the floor clutching his chest.

Likely, your first reaction is to kneel down and roll up your sleeves for CPR — or look for someone who can.

Here’s a second scenario: The guy nearing the cash register begins to shake in distress and panic.

Now, there’s the rub. If you’re like many people, you’ll back off, appear indifferent, pull your children closer.

“It’s my experience that most everybody wants to be helpful,” said Derrik Tollefson, head of  the Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology at Utah State University. “But in a mental health crisis, they don’t know how to be — and they’re afraid.”

We’re all familiar with first aid, its bandages and techniques, knee scrapes and broken arms. But a mental health crisis? It can’t be fixed with gauze or an elbow splint.

We can, however, still apply first aid. Think of it as “mental health first aid” for what Tollefson describes as “a disease of the brain.”

It’s like CPR, though. It calls for training. And that’s now available with an upcoming workshop sponsored by SSWA in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The day-long training session will be Friday, April 26, in the Eccles Conference Center. It is open to the staff and faculty campus wide, as well as the public. There is no cost, but registration is required.

The training will focus on recognizing the signs of mental health and substance abuse instances in others and how to respond in a way that is helpful and effective, said Tollefson. Among the topics covered will be anxiety, trauma, depression, addiction and psychosis.

The workshops began in 2016 following a declaration by USU’s Student Association that mental health concerns among students had reached a crisis level. However, Tollefson and graduate students found that people did not understand how they could help. 

“We wanted to raise awareness and help people understand that we are all part of a mental health solution,” he said.

Several workshops have been held since that first effort. According to Tollefson, “Participants enjoy the training and consistently report feeling much more empowered to help those who are facing mental health challenges.” 

He added that the training isn’t for therapists, clinical social workers and psychologists. “It’s our responsibility as a neighbor or friend to be as helpful as possible within the scope of our training and what we’re able to do.” 

Participants, he said, will leave the workshop with “real concrete tools and knowledge, simple things that they can say and do that are more likely to lead to that person getting the support they need.”

The workshop will run April 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Eccles Conference Center, room 307/309. Register at


Janelle Hyatt
Communications Director
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
(435) 797-0289


Janelle Hyatt
Communications Director
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
(435) 797-0289

Derrik Tollefson
Department Head
Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology


Community 323stories Society 312stories Teaching 98stories Mental Health 51stories Humanities 40stories

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