Badge program enables all Blazers to commit to promoting mental health

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A new program bringing together mental health efforts across UAB’s academic and medical campuses allows staff, faculty and students to earn badges showcasing their commitment to promoting mental health within the UAB community. Launched during Mental Health Awareness Month, the initiative aims to increase the visibility of mental health year-round.

The enterprisewide UAB Cares Mental Health Advocate Badge Program is an effort of the UAB Cares Suicide Prevention Initiative. The program recognizes individuals who complete mental health training, with badges awarded following completion of each of three levels. The badges are designed to be added to an email signature to help increase the visibility and importance of mental health across UAB; participants also receive a certificate of completion. The program is available to all UAB/UAB Medicine staff, faculty, trainees and students.

“A culture of care and thriving”

Trained individuals are empowered to promote a culture of mental health awareness, identify peers in distress and provide guidance, and share and recommend mental health resources available for employees and students.

“We are not expecting anyone to be a counselor,” said UAB Employee Assistance and Counseling Center Director Tami Long, Ph.D. “We want faculty, staff, students and UAB leaders to have a point of reference when mental health concerns or suicidal ideation shows up in the workplace or their personal lives. We want everyone to know what resources are available and have the language to refer to the appropriate resources. For many, just acknowledging that ‘I see something different in your emotional state’ is enough to let that individual know someone is paying attention and cares about their well-being.”

The goal is “to promote a culture that encourages us all to take care of ourselves and each other,” said UAB Cares Leadership and Implementation Team Chair and Student Counseling Services Director Angela Stowe, Ph.D. “Promoting the mental health and well-being of our students and colleagues is everyone’s responsibility so that we can be a part of a culture of care and thriving.”

“This is truly a coordinated effort between the academic and medical campuses, aiming to establish a strong foundation and collective commitment to prioritizing mental health, just as we do with physical health,” said UAB Medicine Director of Wellness and Administration Nisha Patel. “Earning and proudly displaying these badges communicate to others your dedication to fostering mental well-being within our community.”

“This is the first initiative of its kind at UAB to be a coordinated, enterprisewide effort to promote a culture of care, and it aligns wonderfully with our mission as a health-promoting university."

How it works

rep mental health badges 550pxBadges are designed to be added to an email signature to help increase the visibility and importance of mental health across UAB.The Mental Health Advocate Level 1 badge includes QPR Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Training (see dates for upcoming trainings here), an introduction to the UABwell app and review of a comprehensive list of wellness resources available throughout the UAB enterprise. “The first level should not take more than a few hours to complete,” Long said. “The longest portion to complete is the QPR Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Training, which is 90 minutes.”

Mental Health Advocate Level 2 training is divided into three tracks: Faculty/Staff, Leader, and Student. Faculty and staff learn about Mental Health First Aid in a daylong training (to see dates for upcoming sessions, see the "Mental Health First Aid" tab on this page) and explore the offerings in the myStrength app. Leaders do the same and complete a Suicide Prevention in the Workplace training, as well. Students complete Therapy Assistance Online and Togetherall training. Both are online platforms; TAO offers brief education sessions on more than 150 common mental health topics and skills, while Togetherall is a peer-to-peer platform that gives users access to trained professionals, trainings and resources.

The final badge is Mental Health Fellow, available in three tracks: Student, Peer Responder (available only for UAB Medicine and Heersink School of Medicine faculty and staff working in the clinical setting) and Facilitator (must be approved by immediate supervisor and a director of EACC, Student Counseling Services or the Heersink Office of Wellness).

“At the foundational level, everyone receives the same essential knowledge,” Patel said. “We wanted to give everyone the tools and resources that are available and bring everyone together to help.”

Potentially lifesaving impact

“If you have already taken one or more of these courses, you are well on your way to earning a badge,” Long said. “We encourage all members of the UAB community to consider obtaining at least Level 1, since QPR emphasizes helping those during a mental health crisis. By doing so, you may be able to make a significant impact and possibly save a life.”

The UAB Enterprise Mental Health Advocate Badge Program grew out of the Mental Health Advocate Program launched in early 2023 by the EACC. “We began offering Mental Health First Aid and the QPR Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Training Program to employees during the first year of the pandemic,” Long said. “Although we were seeing steady enrollment in the courses, the participant count was low.” When Long read about a badging program in diversity education from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in its newsletter, she was inspired to do the same for mental health education. Josephine Jackson Banks, Ph.D., executive director of Human Resources, was enthusiastic, as was Stowe when Long presented the idea to her as chair of the UAB Cares Suicide Prevention Initiative. Stowe then reached out to Patel.

“This is the first initiative of its kind at UAB to be a coordinated, enterprisewide effort to promote a culture of care, and it aligns wonderfully with our mission as a health-promoting university,” Stowe said.