Become a Leader & Advocate with Mental Health First Responder Training

Distressed teenage girl who represents the students who's teachers would benefit from Mental Health First Response Certificate courses

Take an individual course or work toward earning a certificate with multiple courses!

In much the same way that traditional first aid is designed to save the life of a person in crisis, Mental Health First Response focuses on saving lives by recognizing the emotional distress, depression and other issues impacting students.

This certificate program is designed to give educators the tools they need to make an impact in their schools — particularly with regard to issues that are increasingly leading to suicide, violence and harm to self or others when not appropriately addressed in a timely manner.

Teachers and administrators will learn the skills necessary to make appropriate referrals and respond to emotional, mental and social issues within the school setting. Our mental health certificate program will empower educators to become mental health first responders.

Who Should Get Their Mental Health Certificate?

K-12 educators, as well as other school professionals, such as school nurses, psychologists, counselors and administrators are excellent candidates for this course. Parents and school volunteers can also benefit from this program.  ‎The courses are designed to be flexible enough to meet the needs of any age group or professional interest area. In fact, over the years educators from various backgrounds as diverse as prison to college level have participated. Although most examples tend to focus on the K-12 age group, the assignments are easily modified to meet the needs of the specific job description (teacher, admin, counselor, nurse, coach etc) and age group.

Marcia Sue Rathfon Scholarship

USD's Mental Health First Response Certificate is eligible for the Marcia Sue Rathfon Scholarship. Apply today to be eligible to receive $500 off the cost of this certificate. Click here to learn more.

Schedule & Fees

Course # Courses (11 units) Duration SP SU FA Fee
EDU-X791J Introduction to Mental Health First Response
(3 units)
up to 6 months OSP OSP OSP $489
EDU-X792J Mental Health Prevention Programs and Process
(2 units)
up to 6 months OSP OSP OSP $307
EDU-X793J Mental Health Triage
(2 units)
up to 6 months OSP OSP OSP $307
EDU-X794J Mental Health Matters
(2 units)
up to 6 months OSP OSP OSP $307
EDU-X795J Mental Health Re-entry
(2 units)
up to 6 months OSP OSP OSP $307
One Time Certificate Fee $45
Total Certificate Cost (5 courses) $1,762
C = Classroom; OFD = Online Fixed-Date; OSP = Online Self-Paced; IS = Independent Study Self-Paced
*Schedule and Fees are subject to change.

Benefits of the Mental Health Certificate Program 

Among the many benefits of our mental health first response certificate program, participants who complete one or all of the courses will be equipped to:

  • Identify signs and symptoms of mental health distress among children and to make appropriate and timely referrals
  • Take a proactive stance at your school, by implementing mental health prevention approaches and/or services to students in need
  • Have a plan for school-based mental health triage based on the nature, severity and immediacy of the required response to students in crisis
  • Be able to determine the fiscal, legal, ethical and personal impact from mental health first response initiatives in the school setting
  • Have strategies in place to proceed after a school-based trauma, including re-entry and transition planning
  • Create a safe and responsive school or classroom that meets the needs of those impacted by mental health problems

Mental Health First Responder Certificate Learner Outcomes 

  • Become familiar with common types of mental health conditions encountered in a school setting, including signs and symptoms which may lead to referral.
  • Identify at-risk students or situations, make appropriate referrals and collaborate with professionals in order to support students, build resilience and provide early intervention.
  • Become familiar with tiers of prevention, active listening, signs and symptoms of mental or emotional distress among children.
  • Recognize and know how to respond to privacy and confidentiality concerns, legal issues and other student rights related to emotional health.
  • Substantiate the need for school-based mental health triage to determine the nature, severity and immediacy of the required response.
  • Know the importance of building a school-based Triage Team as well as how to identify additional resources and areas in need of consideration.
  • Recognize the need for intervention and/or referral during post crisis events.
  • Gather community resources and understand proper communication channels when collaborating with parents, community, at-risk youth and others.

Mental Health Certificate Curriculum 

Enroll in individual courses of your choice within the series to earn graduate level extension credits. We recommend that you start with Introduction to Mental Health First Response first, and then the remaining courses in any order. For more information about our mental health first response certificate courses, please refer to the schedule and list of courses at the top of the page.

Mental Health Training for Educators Certificate Requirements 

Complete the requirements below to earn a professional Mental Health First Response certificate. The certificate can be completed in as few as 9 months. Read Certificate Benefits and Policy.

  • Complete 5 core courses (11 units)

Experienced Instructors 

Shannon Perez

Shannon Perez, MBA, MHSE, with studies in Health Behavior at the University of Florida. Perez is the former VP of Clinical Research for a health service management company and has worked with many of the leading health-related organizations throughout the nation including the Centers for Disease Control, WebMD, MDLinx and others.


The University of San Diego’s Division of Professional and Continuing Education is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges – Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

Can I take one course now or do I need to plan to take all of the courses?

You can take an individual course, or you can plan to take the five required courses to earn your certificate. We do recommend that you take EDU-X791J before any other courses.

Does this certificate provide me with any professional training on making mental health diagnoses?

No. Educators are usually the first to see issues in the classroom and/or on campus when a student is in distress. This program gives you strategies on how to professionally respond to different scenarios within your school/district procedures.

Do these courses provide me with a standard set of guidelines?

This certificate program gives you the tools and strategies to choose from to implement in your classroom or school, allowing for greater understanding of mental health issues of children, how to be proactive with prevention strategies, how to triage in the event of a crisis and how to manage the after-crisis period. The certificate allows you to consider how to best keep your students safe from self-harm or from harm of others.

Online Learning Information

Online courses offer a convenient, yet rigorous style of learning that allows you to structure your education to suit your schedule while keeping you on pace toward achieving your educational goals. And, USD online courses offer the same high-quality content and expert instruction as the courses held on-campus. You can expect the following from Online Self-Paced courses in our mental health program:

  • You can go online when convenient, completing a course within six months from enrollment
  • As long as you have access to the Internet (and any textbook requirements, if applicable), you can complete assignments
  • You'll read articles and watch videos, and interact with resources provided within the course
  • Completed assignments are submitted and then evaluated by your instructor
  • Instructor interaction and feedback are provided between assignments

Technical Requirements

  • High-speed Internet connection
  • Access to Blackboard e-learning platform
  • Compatible web browsers and plugins


"The class and entire certificate series is more relevant now than ever before. I’m better prepared for MH emergencies and grateful for this timely training." -- Michael McCracken, Educator, Riverside City College, Riverside, CA

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