“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.” - Glenn Close
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) has been offered to the Mason community since 2014. The training provides information about the signs and symptoms of common mental illnesses and a strategy for connecting with those demonstrating such indicators. MHFA training develops basic skills and does not transform participants into healthcare professionals. With the high prevalence of mental health concerns, it is important to be familiar with these signs and symptoms and willing to engage in helpful conversations to encourage those who are struggling to connect with appropriate professional care.
Participants who complete this 8-hour training earn a 3-year certification through the National Council for Behavioral Health.
Open training sessions for the George Mason University community (faculty, staff, and students) are offered throughout the year. Typically, the 8-hour training is split into two 4-hour sessions. If you’re not a member of the Mason community, we encourage you to explore options through Fairfax County’s Community Services Board.
In addition to these two 4-hour sessions, students can choose to enroll in a partial term course for academic credit through UNIV 370. Two sections are offered in both the fall and spring terms.
Mason’s facilitators also run closed sessions for specific campus groups. If you would like to pursue a session for a particular group, contact Katie Clare.
Katie Clare, trained as a facilitator in 2014, has welcomed the opportunity to bring this training to the university community. She secured this training as an elective option in the Mason Advisor Certificate program. This has led many members of Mason’s advising community to participate. She also led the effort to translate the training into the partial term, credit-bearing course. Her goal is to create safe spaces for conversations on mental health and the ways in which stigma can get in the way. She wants participants to feel capable of seeing and helping those who may be struggling. In her work to support well-being at Mason, she’s an advocate for including psychological well-being in those larger well-being efforts.
Patrice Levinson, a Nurse Practitioner at Mason’s Student Health Services, began teaching MHFA to faculty and staff in 2014. Because mental health problems are common and most people don’t know how to help, she believes this training is vital. She believes it is especially important for college communities because mental illnesses usually develop before age 25, and this 8-hour MHFA training provides a format for discussing the stigma of mental illness and learning the signs and symptoms of common mental illnesses. She also values the opportunity to teach the MHFA UNIV 370 course, as it allows students to explore their own experiences with mental health concerns in their friends, family, and themselves while earning that 1 credit that is sometimes needed for graduation.
Read a Mason news article on how MHFA training helps students. Here’s what some other participants have to say about MHFA training:
“Truly, it is the most beneficial training I have ever had the opportunity to engage in. I appreciate you both taking the time to share this knowledge with the GMU community.”
"I learned a ton of stuff to use in my job. It's been two days and I already notice an improvement in my student interactions. I also learned things that will help me personally.”
“Overall, it's very informative, and I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about ways to support students.”
“I think every single person that works with college students should have this training. It’s a plus for everyone.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed this class and I’m certain that the material presented will benefit me in my work at Mason and in my personal life. I wondered how it would go with two people teaching the class, but after experiencing it I have to say that it is an added bonus. You each bring your own life experiences and viewpoints which underscores the material presented.”
"I am amazed by the amount of information about mental health and mental illness that is not readily available to the public.”
“Taking this class helped me to become more accepting of my own personal struggles with mental illness. I used to think my depression and anxiety were my own fault.”
Katie Clare and Patrice Levinson, “Adapting Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Training for the College Curriculum,” poster presented at Innovations in Teaching and Learning, George Mason University, September 2019.
Katie Clare and Patrice Levinson, “Mental Health in the Classroom,” workshop, Innovations in Teaching and Learning, George Mason University, September 2019.
Katie Clare and Patrice Levinson, “Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Training for the College Curriculum: An Innovative Approach for Teaching Students About Mental Illnesses and Promoting Mental Health Well-Being,” poster presented at the American College Health Association Annual Meeting, Denver, CO, May 2019.
Katie Clare and Patrice Levinson, “Implementing Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Training for the College Curriculum: An Innovative Approach for Teaching Students About Mental Illnesses and Promoting Mental Health Well-Being,” workshop, UL Student Success Symposium, George Mason University, January 2018.