The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression across all populations, including college students. To help raise awareness of the significant mental health needs on all college campuses, and to address those of Niagara University’s students, the university is coordinating a series of trainings, webinars, and events that will offer a comprehensive, evidence-based, proactive approach to mental health during Mental Health Awareness Week, Nov. 16-20, 2020.

Offered in conjunction with Best Self Behavioral Health Inc. and the National Council for Mental Health First Aid, and funded through a grant from the Mother Cabrini Foundation, these activities, many of which are open to the public, are intended to help raise awareness and provide resources surrounding mental health for students, faculty, staff, multidisciplinary early childhood professionals, and others who want to learn more about supporting those with mental health needs.

“At Niagara, we are committed to the physical, spiritual, and mental health of the whole person. We recognize that for our students, the university living-learning experience is rewarding, enriching, and engaging,” said Rev. James Maher, C.M., Niagara University president. “We also know that this time of transition may be stressful as students navigate new and unknown roles and expectations, and that this academic year has been further complicated by the restrictions and uncertainty imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The events offered during Mental Health Awareness Week will help to support the mental health and well-being of our students and the campus community. We are extremely grateful to the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation for their commitment to the critical needs and issues of mental/behavioral health.” 

The week’s events include the following:


Mental Health First Aid: Participants will learn how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders during this six-hour training.

Gatekeeper: Mental Health First Aid Basics & QPR Training: Participants will learn how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis during this virtual, two-hour program.


Webinars and Panel Presentations:

Make a Positive IMPACT through Volunteerism & Mental Health in our Community: What is Compeer and How can You Become a Compeer Volunteer? Tara Porter, Compeer Niagara director, will give attendees a better understanding of the mental health needs in our community and how they can become a Compeer volunteer during this virtual presentation.

 Dates: Monday, Nov. 16, 4–5 p.m.

            Tuesday, Nov. 17, 12–1 p.m.

Managing Mental Health in the Era of COVID-19: Niagara University alumni who currently work in the field of mental health counseling discuss current challenges, strategies, and resources.

Date:   Wednesday, Nov.18, 6–7 p.m.

Overview of the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health and Introduction to the New York State Infant (B-5) Mental Health Endorsement: Wendy Shutts Bender, infant mental health mentor and clinical executive director of the New York State Association for Infant Mental Health, will explain the IMH endorsement, its various categories, and the critical need for this specialization from practitioners in multiple disciplines, as well as how to apply.

Dates: Wednesday, Nov. 18, 12–1 p.m.

            Thursday, Nov. 19, 6–7 p.m. 

Interdisciplinary Perspectives: Building Resilience in Young Children During Turbulent Times: Panelists include Cambria Daniels, program director of social-emotional learning, BestSelf Behavioral Health, Inc.; Dr. Lisa Kilanowski, associate professor of school psychology and  chairperson, Niagara University Department of Counseling and Applied Psychology; Ashley Kowalyk, social worker and behavioral specialist, The Children’s Center for Success, Family Help Center; Kim Stewart, director of early childhood programming, Seneca Babcock Community Association; Sharon A. Ray, director of evidence-based programs, BestSelf Behavioral Health, Inc.; and Dr. Constantina Spiropoulos, pediatrician, Western New York Psychiatric Center.

Date: Thursday, Nov. 19, 3–5 p.m.

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