Blog: Placing mental health first aid front and centre of nursing training

Date 9.02.2018

Emma Dillon, Senior Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing at the University of Northampton blogs about what mental health first aid training is and how the university is getting its nursing students up to speed on this vital skill.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a significant public health project and fits into the University of Northampton’s (UON) strategic plan to be Super Supportive, Future Focused and have Social Impact.

MHFA’s goal is to train one in ten people in vital Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) skills, because, at the end of the day, we all have mental health and anyone of us can experience mental health issues.

MHFA is an added tool the University offers student nurses, supplementing their degrees. It helps them focus on actively promoting mental health to the public, intervening earlier to support people who are or may develop mental ill health issues and to have an increased awareness of their own well being.

People from all walks of life train to become MHFA instructors but they all have one thing in common: a desire to improve the mental health of our society.

UON has MHFA as a key philosophy, with various staff groups being offered this training.

The UON BSc Mental Health (MH) Nursing team are thrilled to be a part of the MHFA philosophy and have 2 MHFA instructors within the team, Francis Beckett and me.

So, what does the training involve?

Firstly, Francis Beckett (Senior Mental Health Nursing Lecturer) and myself had to get ourselves up to speed as trainers, so we attended a seven day instructor’s course in London.

We were joined by lots of other people from many different backgrounds who all had the same things in common – a passion for mental health first aid and looking after people, in the community and also themselves.

Thankfully, we both passed – imagine the shame if we didn’t!

Both personally and professionally, it was a rewarding and positive achievement, not just for us but also for the students.

Students attended a two day workshop which explores MHFA, mirroring the philosophy of physical first aid, aiming to preserve life and reduce MH stigma.

Our most recent crop of students actually got a free course, which was a real coup as MHFA can charge around £300 per course. They clearly got a lot out of it:

“This course has really enhanced my learning and will help me on my course.”

“An enjoyable two days made me really think about my own well-being and that of those around me.”

“An interesting and informative 2 days – useful for anyone!”

We’ve already trained 66 year one BSc MH Nursing students in MHFA over the past few months.

Wow! Have we trained that many? What a total! But we haven’t finished yet.

In addition the nursing team have secured funding to train a further 12 MHFA instructors to enable all of our BSc nursing students to complete the two day MHFA course. This will have a significant impact on the wellbeing of UoN and the local community.

That’s because we don’t just sit around and think about mental health.

Getting out and about and putting the lecture room theory into practice is all part of being a brilliant nurse and MHFA is just another key addition to a nurse’s skill base.

For more about the Mental Health (BSc) Nursing course at University of Northampton, see our website.