MTSU begins 3-year project to aid students’ mental...

MTSU begins 3-year project to aid students’ mental health with help from $365K federal grant

young woman sitting on a bench looking worried with the Mental Health First Aid, MTSU and CHHS logos on the wall behind her (Pixabay photos for photo illustration)

A federal grant will help MTSU personnel recognize possible mental health issues in students and provide information that could help them.

Center for Health and Human Services logoMTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services will implement the new Mental Health First Aid program over the next three years with the Department of Social Work, Student Health Services, the Center for Counseling and Psychological Resources, the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center and other on- and off-campus partners.

Funding for the project, a grant worth more than $365,000, is being provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Mental Health FIrst Aid logoThe MTSU Center for Health and Human Services will train faculty, advisers, campus health services, veterans’ services and residence hall directors, among others. Information on training sessions on campus will be posted on the center’s website at

“Recognizing the need is the first step,” said Cynthia Chafin, associate director of community programs and CHHS director. “This training will ensure our MTSU community is equipped to identify those students at risk or already struggling with mental health issues and direct them to the appropriate resources for getting the help they need and deserve.”

Center for Health and Human Services interim director

Cynthia Chafin

The years when experts say mental illness first emerges in young adults, ages 18-25, converges with the ages of traditional college students. Sometimes, however, students are reluctant to seek treatment.

“Stigma toward mental illness and limited knowledge of accessing mental health services are barriers to accessing needed care for our students,” said Vickie Harden, an assistant professor of social work at MTSU.

Student veterans, in particular, describe high rates of hopelessness, difficulty functioning due to depression symptoms and suicidal thoughts. Unfortunately, sometimes these students resort to self-medication.

Vickie Harden, Department of Social Work

Vickie Harden

Dr. Hilary Miller, director, Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center

Dr. Hilary Miller

“Research suggest that binge drinking behaviors are often used as coping mechanisms for depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress,” said Dr. Hilary Miller, director of the Daniels Center. “The Daniels Center is focused on strong transitions; thus, health and wellness are important to us.”

Miller said that MTSU personnel will receive specialized instructions and guidance to better understand the unique aspects of life for military members, veterans and their families.

The Center for Health and Human Services coordinates and conducts projects, programs and research activities in public health issues of importance to Tennessee and the nation.

For more information, contact Chafin at 615-898-5493 or To learn more about the Mental Health First Aid program, go to

— Gina K. Logue (