Affecting nearly 40 million people nationwide, mental illness is an issue affecting almost every demographic, with college students being no exception.

In an effort to promote ways of identifying signs of mental illness, Career Services is offering its third year of training for staff, faculty and for the second time students, in the upcoming weeks.

Titled RESPOND, the program offers a deeper look at mental health problems on college campuses with an engaging four-hour training session.

“As far as college goes, it’s like an incubator, it’s like everything all at once,” Wellness Service counselor Rachel Mayfield said. “So there’s this mindset that culturally I’m supposed to have it all figured out, for someone with a little depression, it can make things even harder to handle.”

Each letter in RESPOND stands for a step in a process of identifying and assisting those with mental illness.

At a time when mental illness rates are rising, recent studies have revealed some alarming statistics about college students and their likelihood of suffering from mental illnesses like anxiety and depression.

An American College Health Association survey of more than 63,000 students across 92 schools found that more than a third of those dealt with either depression or anxiety.

Mayfield said those percentages align with what she’s seen at Northwest, meaning around 2,500 of Northwest’s 6,338 students are potentially dealing with mental illnesses.

She said RESPOND has increased the level of awareness that participants have ofmental health and the confidence they have in themselves to identify and help those with mental health issues.

“Right now mental health is a huge national topic and then collegiate mental health is even bigger,” Mayfield said. “The event definitely is a personally growing experience.”

A notable topic at RESPOND examines a culture surrounding mental illness and the difficulties many have in addressing it.

“It’s a lot of hush-hush, there is a stigma attached to mental health, and we’re trying to debunk that,” Mayfield said. “If we start talking about it with others, it won’t be such a secret and the more that we engage, the more open we are with having these conversations and hopefully the better off our campus will be.”

The event also promotes response and communication techniques like how to listen and empathize, assess risks, support, refer and take care of one another.

Mental illnesses appear in a variety of forms, most commonly anxiety or depression, but those with OCD, PTSD and phobias also fall under this category.

Mayfield said the highest number of diagnoses seen at Northwest fall under anxiety and depression.

With thousands of students each having different personalities, Mayfield said what anxiety might look like in one person, oftentimes doesn’t appear the same in someone else.

“Some are going to struggle and how to have conversations with people in different scenarios is what we’re seeking,” Mayfield said. “These are our students, these are our Bearcats and we want to make sure they’re happy and healthy and having a good college experience.”

Approximately 40 staff and faculty members will be in attendance for Wednesday’s session, students will have their own RESPOND training Sept. 13 and Sept. 23.

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