Wellness Services organized and held an interactive RESPOND training Sept. 4 for Northwest faculty and staff to learn about mental health and suicide as it affects college campuses.
The session, led by Wellness Services professionals BK Taylor and Dana Mallett, informed those in attendance about mental health signs and symptoms, suicide prevention through lectures, informational videos and interactive activities.
The program is intended to make staff and faculty aware of the severity of these issues across college campuses nationwide and teach them how to respond appropriately and actively to students they believe might be experiencing poor or degrading mental health.
RESPOND stands for recognize signs, empathize, share concerns, pose open questions, offer hope, navigate resources and policy and do self-care. Several colleges across the nation offer similar training through their counseling centers, but some colleges only offer the training for faculty and staff.
RESPOND training was a program implemented by Northwest’s Assistant Director of Wellness Services BK Taylor three years ago.
“As a frontline tool to prevent suicide, it has really been wildly effective,” Taylor said. “We see increases of people that go through this training bringing people to the Wellness Center. You look at our statistics here at Northwest and how engaged people are with our counseling – I think a lot of it is we’ve trained a lot of people through this training, professionals and students.”
According to a Northwest survey conducted by Wellness Services, when asked whom they felt they could go to when personal concerns arise, 44% of students said they would go to Wellness Services. This is the highest percentage across college campuses in Missouri.
Mallett has worked at Northwest since August 2018 as a counselor for Wellness Services. Although she said she would love to be able to help every student, Mallett knows that it is not feasible.
“We have five counselors that are licensed as counselors, but we can’t be responsible for all of the students ‒ it’s just not bodily possible,” Mallett said. “The idea is to train up and out so that the individuals that are firsthand, face-to-face seeing the students that they have this training behind them so they can identify students that might need some assistance.”
RESPOND training is also available to students and student organizations. Student sessions feature the exact same information and format as the faculty and staff sessions.
Mallett has found the student RESPOND training sessions to be increasingly effective.
“Just from this semester of us doing the training, we’ve seen several reports of RAs that have attended the sessions, came back and utilized some of the questions and some of the training with their residents,” Mallett said. “I’d like to say it’s really successful because when we see that we’re thinking ‘This is great. They heard it. They’re using it. This means something.’”
Drake Summers is the Student Involvement Coordinator at Northwest and recently graduated from Northwest. Summers attended RESPOND training and wished he had also done it when he was a student at Northwest.
“We should look out for one another,” Summers said. “As a student that can mean recognizing when someone is struggling. As RESPOND training explains, not everyone can or should be the person directly assisting someone, but nobody should do nothing.”
RESPOND training has two more student sessions this month on Sept. 17 and Sept. 29.