A project training students in Mental Health First Aid is to be rolled out across all healthcare courses at Coventry University.
The scheme provides people with the ability to spot the vital warning signs of mental health issues and help steer the person towards the right support.
About 300 nursing students have already been given the training as part of a pilot programme which launched two years ago to ensure all nurses fully understand the subject of mental health and emotional well-being.
Now Coventry University – a member of the West Midlands Combined Universities group – is leading the way in Mental Health First Aid training by offering the course to students on all healthcare disciplines, such as occupational therapy, paramedic science, and dietetics, with between 400 and 500 to participate in sessions next month.
It is part of the university’s drive to raise awareness of mental health issues across the university, which has also seen 200 academic personal tutors and professional services staff undergo the training.
The aim is not only to train the next generation of health professionals in Mental Health First Aid but also make students and staff more aware of their own mental health, and that of their colleagues.
The university’s programme also supports the West Midlands Combined Authority’s agenda to tackle mental health issues across the region. The WMCA launched its action plan in Birmingham on Tuesday 31 February to address mental health illness, which it estimates as costing the region £12 billion per year.
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 Mental Health First Aid course.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to make a series of mental health reforms, with a focus on children and young people. Among the measures announced was that teachers will be given Mental Health First Aid training.
Diane Phimister, Associate Head for the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, said:
“It is really important that everyone in the health care disciplines understand the basics of mental health. When you look at what students on health care 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.
“We are taking a two-pronged approach. 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.
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.
“Mental health is everybody’s business.”
Natalie Lynn, who works with students as they hand in their assignments, said:
“It has been really worthwhile. “This will help in my work life because of the contact I have with students, especially as I see them at quite pressured times. It has made me a lot more aware of the importance of understanding when talking with someone is necessary, or when a different approach is needed.
“Sometimes it is about finding that comfort in just talking.”
Caroline Hounsell, Director of Partnerships and Product Development for Mental Health First Aid England, said:
“Coventry University is an institution 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 such a demanding profession.”