University News

President Johnson Leads Western New England University's Mental Health First Aid Program

Published: March 09, 2023 | Categories: All News, Faculty

Initiative Reaches 200 Certified Members

Dr. Johnson speaking at WNE's Mental Health First Aid training

Western New England University (WNE) proudly announces that its Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) certification program has reached a milestone; the training of 200 members of the WNE Community. This achievement was made possible thanks to the leadership of University President Robert E. Johnson and the dedicated efforts of Dr. Kam Capoccia, Clinical Professor of Community Care at WNE's College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

"Mental health and access to mental health assistance have always been of utmost importance on college campuses, but the pandemic heightened the need," said President Johnson. "I am a proud Mental Health First Aid Trainer, and my immediate involvement demonstrates WNE’s dedication to providing adequate resources on campus."

The Mental Health First Aid program equips individuals with the ability to identify mental health crises, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. It also provides participants with essential skills to offer initial support and guide individuals to professional help when necessary. Since the program's inception in 2021, 200 members have become certified, making a significant impact on the University community.

"My 'why' started in the classroom with our pharmacy students," said Capoccia. "I teach them how to assess patients and how to screen for depression. During that week in class, I encourage them to reach out if they need support. Over the last several years, more and more students have been asking for help with their mental health challenges. So, when the Mental Health First Aid certification came about, I immediately signed up and became a Mental Health First Aider."

Since then, Dr. Capoccia has spearheaded the training of 18 WNE employees to become volunteer course instructors who will certify other members of the community. "Western New England is embracing mental health and the mental health of our community, whether that be faculty, staff, students, parents, or our local collaborations," she said. "Instructing our Mental Health First Aid Trainers and getting our community Mental Health First Aid certified has already had such an amazing impact. I am proud we are leading this front in the Springfield community and providing support and awareness."

As the MHFA program continues to grow at WNE, the university remains committed to promoting mental health awareness and providing necessary resources to support the well-being of its community members.

"We must all work together to destigmatize mental health by having conversations, listening to what the campus community needs, and ensuring that we have the tools in place to meet the challenge," said Johnson. "The MHFA program, along with our 24/7 mental health crisis hotline, counseling services that are constantly evolving to meet students’ needs, and even our campus comfort dog 'Bear' proves that we are deeply committed to taking the mental health of our community seriously."

To learn more about this important initiative, read the February 28, 2023 article in Inside Higher Education "Wellness Tip: Boost Campus Confidence in Face of Mental Health Crisis"where Kristine Goodwin, Vice President for Student Affairs at WNE, was interviewed and discussed the program's ability to create a culture shift on campus.