University team are looking after Northampton’s mental health

News Page 11th October 2019

The mental health of people across the town will be better served thanks to a University of Northampton initiative to roll-out a programme of ‘first aid for the mind’ training.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is the mental health equivalent of physical first aid training and gives people the skills, knowledge and confidence to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues and effectively guide a person towards the right support, be that self-help, an employee assistance programme, or professional services.

The University of Northampton has been at the vanguard of ensuring the mental health of our staff, students and wider community is rosier since November 2017 when MHFA England training was first introduced to staff and nursing students.

Since that time, the University’s HR and Mental Health Nursing teams have helped 780 people across the University complete MHFA training, across programmes that last for either half, one or two days: 450 students from all four nursing fields, 300 staff members and 30 Student Union staff.

They are now better prepared to help those they know at the University, family and friends or people they meet off campus who might be experiencing a mental health issue.

To celebrate their achievements and to refresh their training, the University held a conference this week (10 October).

Guest speakers included Fionuala Bonnar, the Chief Operating Officer of MHFA England. She updated attendees about new developments at the organisation and tested their knowledge of mental health first aid.

Emma Dillon, Senior Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing, is one the University’s MHFA leads: “We’re close to celebrating MHFA training’s second ‘birthday’ at the University, so it felt absolutely right to really ‘big-up’ the achievements of our first aiders.

“Our University-wide programme means we are getting close to having nearly 1,000 people, from academics, professional services staff, nursing students and even our student union who are able to spot if someone they meet needs mental health support and to make sure they know how to find and access the right professional help for them.”

HR Business Partner Claire Cross had responsibility for coordinating MHFA training for staff members. She added: “The wellbeing of staff across University of Northampton is something we take very seriously and has been a key focus for us over the last few years.

“Our mental health first aiders are helping people have that all important first conversation about their MH, a topic many of us have difficulty approaching and we have plans to further develop this much needed service.”

Fionuala Bonnar, Chief Operating Officer at Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, added: “It is fantastic to see the University of Northampton’s commitment to supporting its staff, students and wider community with such a robust training programme. With so many mental health first aiders across the University, this will mean no one is ever more than one conversation away from a listening ear or a guiding hand to further support.

“As a social enterprise, our vision is to improve the mental health of the nation by equipping everyone with the skills to support their own and other’s wellbeing. By training one in ten of the adult population in mental health skills and awareness we want to create an unshakeable belief that we can all talk about mental health, and ask for support when we need it.”

Working in partnership with Northampton Town Football Club, the University will take MHFA England training off campus and further into the community later this month, providing training for members of the ‘Cobblers’ staff.

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