Franklin County Mental Health Training Focuses On Warning Signs In College Students

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UPDATED: Tuesday June 3, 2014 3:38 PM

Mental illness does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone, regardless of race or age.

That includes college students. At Ohio State University, student life counselors saw more than 4,000 students last year seeking help for mental health issues.

The number one complaint was anxiety, followed by depression and then relationship problems.

Some OSU faculty and staff are getting mental health first aid training on what to look for. The training gets results, although it may seem strange to watch.

For example, in one exercise a man in a chair is trying to hold a conversation with a woman while he's hearing other voices in his ear.

“Why would she want to talk to you? She doesn't look interested at all. You should just stop. Just stop. She's going to talk about this conversation to everybody.”

The role-playing mimics the hallucinations that some people suffering from schizophrenia experience.

“Here, I was trying to carry on a conversation with someone who wasn't responding to me,” said Rhonda Benedict, OSU Business Programs Director.

“The confusion with the different conversations that were going on, it was a struggle to have that interaction with the individual across from me and be engaged with them,” said Tim Graham, OSU Graduate Programs and Recruiting.

Statistics show that less than one percent of Americans will be affected by schizophrenia in a year. One in four will suffer from a mental health episode in their lifetime.

Dr. Micky Sharma runs the counseling and consultation service for OSU's Office of Student Life. He says some young people enter the demanding, highly-scheduled life on a college campus without adequate coping skills.

“At times, when someone's struggling with anxiety (and/or) depression, it can impact someone's sleep. If they don't sleep well, they don't concentrate well. If they don’t concentrate, their academics suffer. It can impact and affect all
parts of their lives,” said Dr. Sharma.

The hope is that teaching staff how to pick up on signs of emotional distress sooner will help them get students to treatment quicker.

Franklin County's Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Board plans to offer mental health training to college campuses across central Ohio.

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