Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England has launched a training course for students to support the mental health of students and staff across universities in England. The course has been launched to coincide with the start of freshers’ week in the UK.
It has been developed in collaboration with Student Minds, following a successful pilot study and evaluation conducted by the University of Chester. The higher education MHFA course is now available in universities all over England. Students who take the course will be provided with the skills to spot the signs of mental health issues within a university environment and will be able to offer support and guidance.
Caroline Hounsell, the higher education lead and director of training, product development and partnerships at MHFA England, said that courses such as this are important as research has found that 75 per cent of all mental health issues develop by the age of 24.
“Delays in seeking help can result in poorer outcomes and can mean many young people are unduly coping alone. Knowing that peers and support staff around you are trained in mental health first aid can, however, make all the difference, paving the way for supportive conversations, and ultimately supporting early intervention, which aids recovery in the long term,” she said.
Francesca Reed, a third year student from the University of Cambridge, participated in the training as part of the pilot and says that not only has it helped her to support her peers but it has helped to build her own resilience and to help her improve her own mental health.
“The aim of the training was to teach people the skills and confidence to spot signs of mental health issues. It’s about teaching people to listen and reassure and respond when somebody confides in you about having mental health [issues] or when they are potentially in a crisis. It covers everything from anxiety and depression to suicide, psychosis and eating disorders and it goes through step by step what to do if you’re confronted with a situation in which somebody is disclosing to you that they are suffering,” she said.
Francesca added that students who take the course are given a mental health training kit that contains useful resources and websites that can help to direct people towards the correct services for their needs.
At the moment more than 30 universities in England have run Mental Health First Aid courses including the University of York, University of Sunderland, University College London and Anglia Ruskin University.
Students who wish to undertake the training should contact their university’s student services or student support officer to find out if there is an existing well-being programme involving mental health first aid courses or if there are courses that they can sign up for in the future.