More than 150 University of Waikato staff have gained the skills needed to support someone experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis thanks to the new Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Aotearoa New Zealand course.
Te Pou is the MHFA Aotearoa New Zealand national license host that has led the adaptation and implementation of the fourth edition MHFA programme within New Zealand. The programme will see 300 University of Waikato staff trained as Mental Health First Aiders by the end of the year.
The University is currently the leading tertiary provider of MHFA in New Zealand, with five accredited MHFA instructors delivering training, says Sarah Christensen, Mental Health First Aid Project Lead at Te Pou.
“Mental health challenges are common and can be very disabling. They often start in adolescence or early adulthood, and half the people who experience a mental health challenge do so by the age 18,” says Ms Christensen.
“These workshops mean more people will have the skills and confidence to approach someone who may be experiencing a mental health challenge, ensuring they receive help early.”
The workshop covers a range of mental health challenges including depression, anxiety, psychosis and problematic substance use. It also includes the mental health crises of suicide, non-suicidal self-injury, panic attacks, traumatic events, psychosis and aggressive behaviour.
It equips participants with the skills and confidence to support someone experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis and includes specific guidelines for providing Mental Health First Aid to people in Māori, Pacific, and Rainbow communities.
Courtney Bromwich is a MHFA Aotearoa instructor and says providing Mental Health First Aid training to University staff is about creating a community of care.
“The more people that are equipped to identify and provide help where someone might be experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis, the better it is for everyone,” says Ms Bromwich.
She says the eventual goal is to have all University staff complete the training. In 2023 the University hopes to extend the course to student groups.
The programme takes place over two full days and once completed, participants become a Mental Health First Aider.
Staff who have completed the programme say it has helped them know what to do in situations that can be uncomfortable for many people.