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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

NIU offers free mental health training for small businesses

The “Huskie Pride” sculpture sits atop wet sidewalk on a foggy afternoon in the MLK commons. NIU recently received a grant from the federal government to provide free mental health training too small businesses. (Northern Star File Photo)

DeKALB – The U.S. Department of Labor granted $158,531 to NIU for training focused on mental health and suicide prevention in the workplace.

The $158,531 Susan Harwood grant is going toward training through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for small businesses which will be developed and administered by NIU.

OSHA is a regulatory agency for the U.S. Department of Labor. 

“OSHA’s mission is to ensure that employees work in a safe and healthful environment by setting and enforcing standards, and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance,” according to OSHA ’s website.

John Newquist, a OSHA-Authorized Outreach Trainer, will conduct the upcoming training sessions. Newquist said training is going to include two hour and four hour sessions focused on self harm, mental illness and how to handle it in the workplace. 

“We’re going to cover a lot of these issues, you know, the signs, and then go through different methods to help with it,” Newquist said. “Then you know, go into suicide prevention and as well as, you know, how to handle, as a workplace, what you can do to help for the workers and stuff.” 

The training is held in person and employees and employers are encouraged to attend. 

Pettee Borissova, director of Continuing and Professional Education and director of National Safety Education Center, said the focus on mental health and suicide prevention for the trainings was chosen because it is often ignored in the safety world. 

“They kind of stay away and say alright this is mental health, I am not touching this,” Borissova said. “We will do the machines, we will do the constructions, we will save people from falling from houses, but when it comes down to mental health and suicide, they say I don’t know, we don’t know that much” 

Borissova said these trainings are NIU’s part in transforming and keeping the community safe along with the world. 

“We align with the vision and mission of NIU with this training,” Borissova said. 

NIU has received the Susan Harwood grant six times, but this is the first time the training sessions will be held on mental health. 

“The funding comes from OSHA, they put out quite a few million dollars and it varies every year,” Borissova said.

“We are hoping to keep our region and our community safe by providing training that is accessible to them and it will be free, they just have to show up,” Borissova said.

The first training will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Feb. 2 at NIU Rockford. The training will take place every Friday until September. Registration is available on NIU’s Continuing and Professional Education website

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