SHAW holds Mental Health First Aid classes


Paul Hansen

An in-person mental health class was hosted on March 4 that three students and one faculty member attended.

Kailee Shermak, Staff Writer

Student Health and Wellness (SHAW) hosted classes to prepare students to help mitigate mental health situations. These classes consisted of discussion-based learning about recognizing signs of mental health issues and how to approach those issues. 

Over spring break, virtual classes were held on March 21-22. Prior to break, however, an in-person session was hosted on March 4 that three students and one faculty member attended.

Mary Ann Schwindt `24, an attendee of the class, said the content was informative and gave her a breadth of tools to help those who may be struggling with mental health.

“It’s really important because that way we’re able to prevent any sort of catastrophic event for that person. We all care about each other. That’s what I love about Grinnell,” Schwindt said.

This echoes the intended purpose of hosting these classes, according to Alexis Steele, the manager of SHAW operations and the instructor of these classes. Mental Health First Aid is meant to equip attendees with preventative measures they can take before someone is in a mental health crisis, she explained.

“We know a lot of students care, and we get a lot of students concerned about other students,” Steele said about the initial purpose for her becoming certified to instruct this course and offer it at the College.

Though the class focused on responding to others who are experiencing mental health struggles, attendees noted that the information was also helpful for responding to themselves. Schwindt explained that the content has helped her identify and describe her own struggles better.

“The stigma within myself, surrounding mental illness, has been reduced,” Sophia Carroll `25, another attendee, said about her personal growth during the class.

Carroll and Schwindt both said that they got more out of the class than they expected. The role-playing activities and discussions allowed for the content to be reflective of the attendees’ lives rather than an out-of-touch presentation, Carroll said.

“I thought it was probably the most coherent, and frank and useful mental health discussion I’ve ever been in,” she said about her experience in the Mental Health First Aid class.

The class offered a range of information to attendees concerning responding to mental health issues and connecting people to resources, Schwindt and Carroll said. However, the class also helped Schwindt identify when she was out of her depth when dealing with these issues, she said.

“We’re not certified to give too much advice, really. We’re certified to help people get connected to the right resources,” Schwindt said.

The stigma within myself, surrounding mental illness, has been reduced.

— Sophia Carroll `25


The content taught within this class is versatile and includes valuable lifelong skills, according to Steele. Though the language and approach someone uses may change depending on who they are addressing, these tools can apply to a wide range of situations, she explained.

“It can be used anywhere, anytime, and it’s one of those things where it’s simple information, but you know it,” Steele said about the application of the class’ content.

Steele said she plans to increase the outreach of the Mental Health First Aid class by hosting sessions for academic departments. In addition to departmental collaboration, the class will be included in community advisor training starting in the fall of 2023. Future sessions of the class will be included in emails from SHAW to the student body for those interested.