Mental health first aid training for RA’s

Rachel Calhoun, Contributor

Depression and anxiety are two increasing issues college students are suffering with at American universities, which is causing more resident assistants (RA’s) to be trained in mental health first aid all across the nation. Robert Morris University is one of many schools that have not yet adopted this training yet.

RA’s at Robert Morris have a great deal of responsibility on their plate. Whether they are on duty or not, they are always busy.

“I assist the residents in any way possible,” explained Michael Patschak, an RA on the third floor of the Holiday Inn. “I find solutions to conflicts, help them move in and out, raise and lower their beds, answer any questions about the university, and assist them with everyday tasks. I am on call at all hours, and I walk around my assigned building when I am on duty.”

Not only are RA’s responsible for residents; they are required to go to monthly meetings and plan one community project a semester. Additionally, they have to come up with a community activity for the residents in their building.

“There is a lot of time involved in being an RA. If any incidents happen, there is a lot of paperwork I have to fill out, and I have to go to meetings weekly with my area coordinator,” said Patschak.

Being an RA is a large responsibility in itself, but having Robert Morris RA’s be trained in mental health first aid may be asking too much of them.

“If I wanted to become an RA and I was told I had to be trained in mental health first aid,” said Shelby Greaser, a sophomore at Robert Morris. “I would not even fill out the application because that would be way to much pressure for an RA to be responsible for other’s depression and anxiety issues.”

Other students are opposed to the thought of this new duty being brought to Robert Morris because the RA’s may assume a diagnosis of depression or anxiety, and he or she may in fact be wrong.

“I would not trust someone young to tell me what is wrong with me because that is not their profession,” stated Kiera Branson, a senior at Robert Morris. “The RA’s may have their own issues they have to deal with, and they may not be giving out helpful advice to depressed and stressed students. They are resident assistants not psychologists.”

Although students are against this policy, they may not realize how much of an issue depression and anxiety are within colleges.

Brittany Anas, a staff writer for the online Daily Camera reported the facts in her recent article, Universities Training RAs in ‘mental health first aid.

“A recent study at the University of Colorado showed that 12.8 percent of students in 2011 said they had been diagnosed or treated for anxiety and 11.1 percent answered the same way for depression,” the article stated.

While some students are against the training for RA’s, there are also Robert Morris students that support this new training skill.

“It would be such a great idea if we had RA’s were trained in mental health because they would be able to know and see early signs of depression and anxiety and be able to lead them in the right direction of getting professional help,” explained Sarah Tucek, a junior at Robert Morris.

“RA’s should be trained in mental health because I have no idea if students are depressed,” Patschak added. “I do a lot to make sure they are involved, but if they do not do anything I do not follow up on them to make sure everything is alright. I am just there for whenever they need me.”