Student mental health is a constant concern on a university campus.
It is not uncommon for someone in distress to call 9-1-1. A police officer could be the first person to interact with a person who needs specialized attention.
To help evaluate and properly handle such situations, every officer at Georgia Southern has completed Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), presented by the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in collaboration with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, and the Georgia Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The training ensures that people with mental illnesses and other brain disorders will receive treatment in lieu of incarceration in most cases.
On top of that training, the University System of Georgia offers two additional programs to law enforcement officers:
- QPR Suicide Prevention Training – QPR stands for Question, Persuade and Refer – the three simple steps anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide. Just as people trained in CPR and the Heimlich maneuver help save thousands of lives each year, people trained in QPR learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to question, persuade and refer someone to help.
- Adult Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Training – MHFA is a skills-based training course that teaches people how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorder for police officers to help recognize and handle mental health issues and mental health disorders.
So far, almost 30 police officers at Georgia Southern University have completed the three different training programs, earning each officer a Mental Health Initiative pin.
“I am very proud of these officers, and appreciate them taking the time to better prepare for handling any situation they may encounter,” said Laura McCullough, chief of police at Georgia Southern. “The pins they now wear are a symbol of the care they invest in our community.”
State and University officials lauded the officers’ achievements.
“This law enforcement mental health certification program could not come at a better time for our university communities, given the state of mental health in our country and on our campuses,” said Jodi Caldwell, director of Georgia Southern’s Counseling Center. “Law enforcement personnel are increasingly the first responders to individuals experiencing mental health emergencies. It comes as no surprise to the staff of the Counseling Center that Georgia Southern’s University police department is leading the way in Georgia for law enforcement interest and willingness to become trained in recognizing and responding to individuals in mental health distress.”
Caldwell spoke at a ceremony last month to present the pins and honor the officers. Also attending were Alexis Belvin, Georgia Southern’s SGA President and Chip Reese, Ed.D., former system project director for the University System of Georgia (USG) Mental Health Initiative.
“The USG Mental Health Initiative was launched during COVID to allow us to focus more intentionally on the needs of our students,” Reese said. “We have expanded clinical counseling services and supported mental health and wellness resources and programming across the state. I’m particularly proud of the QPR and MHFA training and hope it will better equip the officers who are already on the first ones we call whenever someone needs help.”
The following officers were awarded the Mental Health Initiative Pin:
Tim Alderman, Josh Barker, Richard Bashlor, Charles Bowen, Ian Craig, Laurence Croy, Steven Cushner, Sam Derr, Christion Doyle, Bailey Dyches, Jonathan Finley, Danny Garrigus, Kenneth Glover, Clay Gracen, Sarah Grey, Lanier Griswold, Patrick Holloway, Tyrone McBride, Chris McBride, Erk McCurdy, BJ McKellar, Alex Morris, Todd Olsen, Kurt Purtee, Dexter Renfroe, Erick Riner, Lamar Stephens, and Crystal Thomas.