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BCC Launches 'Foundations of Mental Health' Training Program
12:16PM / Monday, November 22, 2021
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Community College (BCC) to roll out Foundations of Mental Health, a multi-session virtual training that incorporates interactive activities, role-plays and videos.
When Williams College psychology major Allison Li connected with Elena Nuciforo, Director of Workforce Development: Healthcare at Berkshire Community College (BCC), she was looking for ways to fulfill the experiential component of her public health concentration. 
She told Nuciforo about her interest in public mental health, and an idea was born: Nuciforo suggested that Li design a training program to teach customer service professionals about mental health conditions, treatment and support resources, and strategies for working with people facing mental health challenges.
Combining research and information gleaned from her psychology courses, Li developed Foundations of Mental Health. The next step was finding the first company to partake in the training. The Big Y supermarket in Pittsfield agreed, and a partnership formed.
After Big Y was identified as a participant, Li worked with Pam Coley McCann, BCC Associate Professor, Human Services, to tailor the program to the context of the Big Y workplace and suit their needs.
"Big Y was the perfect 'first audience' for us," Coley McCann said. "We found participants to be passionate and thoughtful about how to create a more supportive work environment both for their employees and their customers."
April Carchietta, Senior Manager of Employee Experience & Development at Big Y, said, "We had a great experience piloting Berkshire Community College’s Foundations of Mental Health course. We gained valuable insight to help support our employees and customers who may be facing this very real challenge. Upon completing the course, we felt more confident in our abilities to recognize different mental health struggles, and we appreciated the real-life tips we received to aid those facing them."
Foundations of Mental Health seeks to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and help prevent confusion, frustration and confrontation in interpersonal communication at work. A focus is placed on positive, respectful interactions with individuals with mental health conditions. 
The pilot program with Big Y was conducted over four 75-minute virtual sessions:
  • What Is Mental Health?
  • Mental Health Problems and Treatment
  • Mental Health in MA, CT and Beyond
  • Working with People with Mental Health Challenges
"Stigma remains a barrier in accessing services for the treatment of mental illness. This training is designed to provide knowledge that helps combat stigma and empowers people to be more supportive when interacting with someone with a mental illness," said Coley McCann. "As our mental health needs grow in Berkshire County, and resources have become more difficult to access, we are recognizing the need for the community to play a large role in creating compassionate, caring environments that allow mentally ill individuals to thrive."
As for Li, the training sessions have strengthened her resolve to focus her career on mental health. 
"The project affirmed my goal of pursuing a career in public health education and policy that addresses the systemic issues and barriers limiting access to mental healthcare," she said. "I hope to continue to address mental health stigma in my future work."  
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