A project training student nurses in “mental health first aid” has proved so successful that it is to be rolled out across all healthcare courses by a university in the Midlands.
The Coventry University programme aims to provide nursing students with the ability to spot the vital warning signs of mental health issues and help steer the person towards the right support.
“It is really important that everyone in the healthcare disciplines understand the basics of mental health”
About 300 student nurses have received the training so far, as part of a pilot scheme launched two years ago to ensure all nurses fully understood mental health and emotional wellbeing.
The university has now decided to offer the course to students on all healthcare disciplines, such as occupational therapy, with between 400 and 500 to participate in sessions next month.
It forms part of the university’s wider drive to raise awareness of mental health issues, which has also seen 200 academic personal tutors and professional services staff undergo the training.
As well as training the next generation of health professionals in mental health first aid, the aim is also to make students and staff more aware of their own mental health, said the university.
Healthcare students will take part in a three-hour introductory training session, delivered by trainers accredited by Mental Health First Aid England. University staff can take part in a two-day course.
“These future nurses will enter their careers equipped with the tools to identify and help a patient in a mental health crisis”
Diane Phimister, associate head for the university’s school of nursing, midwifery and health, said: “It is really important that everyone in the healthcare disciplines understand the basics of mental health.
“When you look at what students on healthcare courses could experience in their careers as students and qualified staff, it is crucial they know how to recognise the symptoms of mental health problems and know how to signpost people to the right support,” she said.
“We are taking a two-pronged approach,” she said. “This is also about staff and students understanding the importance of being aware of their own and their peers’ mental health and emotional well-being.
“Student life is a perfect storm for mental health, with young people facing issues such as social isolation, moving away from home and debts,” noted Ms Phimister.
“This is an early intervention strategy and about the need to be more vigilant, which is why we have been training staff who have face to face contact with students,” she added. “Mental health is everybody’s business.”
Caroline Hounsell, director of partnerships and product development for Mental Health First Aid England, said the university was on the “leading edge of the mental health movement by delivering this crucial training not only to their staff but to students across all healthcare disciplines”.
“These future paramedics, nurses and physiotherapists will enter their careers equipped with the tools to identify and help a patient in a mental health crisis, to support colleagues who may be struggling, and to nurture their own mental wellbeing in what can be demanding professions,” she said.
Earlier this month, prime minister Theresa May announced that teachers will be given mental health first aid training, as part of a series of mental health polices targeted at children and young people.
Success for student nurse ‘mental health first aid’ training