By Tania Chakraborti
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England have announced the launch of a training course aimed at supporting the mental health of students and staff in universities ahead of the typical ‘freshers week’.
The course, which is being implemented nationally, is designed to help students and staff recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and to train those to intervene with first aid where appropriate.
After successful pilot testing at the University of Chester, the MHFA course, developed with the charity Student Mind, is now available to undertake in all English universities.
MHFA have emphasised the growing importance of the course; with The Higher Education Statistics Agency recently revealing that there has been a 210% increase over 5 years in the number of students with mental health issues leaving courses early.
To date, over 30 English universities have run Mental Health First Aid courses; including UCL and the University of York.
Speaking to Times Higher Education (THE), a Cambridge student who took part in the pilot stated of the training: “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.”
Caroline Hounsell, Director and Higher Education lead, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, said of the scheme: “In launching this new Higher Education MHFA course we hope to address some of the concerns around mental health provision in universities by ensuring that more students and staff have access to those trained in MHFA skills.
“Although students fall into a particularly at-risk group, early intervention and support can reduce many long-term impacts of mental ill health including academic failure, dropout and limited employment prospects.”
Students wishing to take part in such a course should contact Durham’s student services.
More information about MHFA England and its courses can be found at www.mhfaengland.org or by emailing info@mhfaengland.
Photograph: Amy Ding