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UD EMS ambulance in front of the chapel in the early evening.

University of Dayton Emergency Medical Services creates mental health position

With anxiety, depression and other mental health needs on the rise for college students, University of Dayton Emergency Medical Services (UD EMS) student volunteers elected a new mental health officer to better serve their peers.

The position is responsible for improving knowledge about and access to mental health resources. The officer will work closely with the UD EMS training officer to provide education for the crew; act as a liaison for UD EMS and the Counseling Center, the Brook Center and other mental health resources available to students; and coordinate events and information sessions, including National Mental Health Awareness Week in October.

While the officer won't provide mental health care, they will connect students in need to appropriate resources.

"The position is important for direct patient care. However, the bigger impact may be from raising the awareness of all students regarding mental health resources available to them through the University and surrounding community," said Greg Kohls '04, Premier Health emergency medicine physician and UD EMS advisor.

The Healthy Minds Survey of college students nationwide reports increases in the last seven years in depression, from 20% to 44%, and anxiety, from 20% to 37%.

In addition to helping their classmates, Joe Cairo, UD police captain and UD EMS staff advisor, said this role will be helpful to UD EMS student volunteers, because awareness and care for the mental health of first responders also is necessary. Something, he added, wasn't the norm just a decade ago.

"We have a significant percentage of our student body coming here with some type of mental health care need, and all of our students on EMS are the peers of these other students. They're more likely to interact with students in crisis or distress from some type of traumatic incident or event," Cairo said. "All that may have a personal impact on them. It's just the nature of what they do."

The mental health officer role happened when a 2021 UD EMS member noticed a gap in mental health training for the members as well as an opportunity to partner with existing resources on campus.

"It took two years to find what would be realistic and beneficial to not only the members of UD EMS, but also to the patients that we care for," said Sarah Nie, UD EMS chief and senior health science major. "Last year, the implementation of a mental health officer was voted on by all members. In March 2023, Allie Johnson was elected as the first mental health officer for UD EMS."

Johnson, a junior health sciences major, said it is a combination of personal experience and volunteering with a crisis text line that inspires her passion for supporting mental health access.

"I'm really interested in mental health, just in general," Johnson said. "I want to help the UD community and spread information so people know where to go if they have any problems."


News and Communications Staff