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Student nurses receive ‘mental health first aid’ training

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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”

Diane Phimister

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”

Caroline Hounsell

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.

Coventry University

Success for student nurse ‘mental health first aid’ training

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Why do we still separate mental and physical health?
    Health should be about a person as a whole, even those in the best of mental health may suffer anxiety when going into hospital, because we all have human emotions. Nurse training should be a combination of both mental and physical health care across the board, it is long overdue that we stopped separating the head form the rest of the body!

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  • This sounds fantastic, such a positive holistic step!

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  • Before seeing mental illness perhaps the nurse should first consider the possibility of a physical illness existing which may be causing a psychiatric presentation. Sadly, I believe even the NMC could benefit from some education. I recently complained about nurses who chose to ignore both physical and mental illness, risking the life of an adult and two fetuses who appear only in their nursing records. Still once entered foetuses have to be appropriately cared for. The lack of knowledge of both nurses and NMC is astounding. I wrote about the possibility of Factitious Disorder by Proxy existing but the NMC were told by Executive staff that a decent investigation had taken place. The NMC find all fit to work although my life was put at risk and no one in the Trusts involved has learned anything. Does the Allitt Inquiry mean nothing to the NMC and has the NMC forgotten it suspended the Director of Nursing in mid Staffs area for covering up failings. Mental illness remains evident if only to myself and I am left bereft by the irresponsible attitude of all. I attempted to be the responsible, caring whistleblower hoping to aid recovery and safe guard but a Director of Nursing was believed instead. A first aid course is a good idea but introducing the idea of holistic care in the first weeks of Nurse training is very important. A nurse is after all supposed to do only good and that should be psychological, psychiatric and physical good.

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