University of Mary Nursing Students and Faculty Train to Recognize, Relate, and Respond to Mental Health Issues with Patients 

Doctor with Patient graphic

Recent Statistics show North Dakota has the highest suicide rate increase in 20-year period

BISMARCK, ND — Findings from the 2020 North Dakota State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup (SEOW) Profile show suicide remains the second leading cause of death for North Dakotans ages 15-34, cited by the state’s Department of Human Services. The report also found North Dakota’s rate of suicide increased more than any state in the nation. In the same report, 55.5 percent of North Dakota’s middle school students and 61.2 percent of the state’s high school students said their mental health was not good.

“Current mental health trends are so alarming and heartbreaking,” said Dr. Billie Madler, associate dean of nursing and professor of nursing in the Saint Gianna School of Health Sciences at the University of Mary.  “Nurses need to be equipped to identify and intervene when they encounter patients exhibiting signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. As health care professionals, and students within the Saint Gianna School of Health Sciences at Mary, it is part of our mission to provide an education of excellence for servant leaders who uphold the dignity of human life and will transform health care for everyone at each stage of life, especially when patients are at their most vulnerable moments.” 

Living the mission of the Saint Gianna School of Health Sciences is why University of Mary senior nursing students and their faculty are taking part in the Mental Health First Aid — an interactive course that teaches them how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. Media is welcome to attend portions of the two, 8-hour courses, Tuesday, February 15 and Thursday, February 17, in the Butler Center on south 7th Street. The training gives an overview of behavioral health disorders in the U.S. Participants will learn risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, build understanding of their impact, and overview common treatments.

 “I am so excited that our students will have the opportunity to participate in this skills-based training,” said Nicole Jonas, assistant professor of nursing at the University of Mary. “I love the parallel that is drawn by the sponsoring agency, National Council for Mental Wellbeing, ‘just as CPR helps to assist and individual having a heart attacked, Mental Health First Aid helps us to assist someone experiencing a mental health or substance-use related crisis,’ we are equipping our nursing students with fundamental tools to actively implement proactive prevention. No matter the future employment setting for our students, nurses encounter individuals with mental illness, or contemplating suicide, or battling substance use disorders daily and Mental Health First Aid will prepare students to identify, understand, and respond to the signs of mental health crisis and substance use disorders.”  

Some of the more specific skills Mary students and faculty will learn are risk factors and warning signs for a range of mental health needs, including depression, anxiety/trauma, psychosis, eating disorders, substance use disorders, and self-injury. Also, students will acquire a five-step action plan that includes the skills, resources, and knowledge to assess the situation, to select and begin appropriate interventions, and to help the individual in crisis connect with appropriate professional care. And lastly, be aware of some of the self-help resources available to support someone with a mental health need.

The two days of training is supported and sponsored by FirstLink and NDSU Extension with support from the North Dakota Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center Grant (USDA-NIFA). 

The University of Mary is once again at the top of all nursing schools across the U.S. Nursing’s national benchmark service, Mountain Measurement. Mary’s prestigious nursing program is consistently at, or near the top every year. Grade-eligible nursing students at Mary receive their senior year free as part of the CHI-St. Alexius Scholarship. Anyone interested in the University of Mary nursing program can visit, or contact for more information.

About the University of Mary

True to its motto “lumen vitae” — The Light of Life — the University of Mary offers education for the whole of life through cutting-edge professional programs and graduate programs animated by moral courage and leadership in chosen professions and service to the community. A private, co-educational Catholic institution, the University of Mary welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds.

A Christian, Catholic, Benedictine institution founded in 1959 by the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery, Mary offers nearly 60 bachelor’s, 19 master’s, and five doctoral programs—in business, education, nursing practice, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. The 19-sport Athletic Department adheres to its Greatness Through Virtue mission under the governance of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) conferences. With more than 3,800 students, Mary has locations in North Dakota, Montana, Arizona, Rome, Italy, as well as vibrant online offerings.