When UWA Health Promotion Unit Manager, Tricia Wylde, was developing the program for students, she was looking for an educational program that would raise awareness of common mental health issues and highlight on-campus support services that were available to assist students. One morning, while driving to work, Tricia heard MHFA founder, Betty Kitchener on the radio. It was a light bulb moment, and Tricia knew that MHFA training would achieve their goal and more.
The research and evidence base for the training program appealed for the tertiary setting and Tricia felt the training would improve mental health literacy and equip students and staff with skills needed to respond in a difficult situation. She also felt it would be sustainable and have a positive long-term impact.
To date, approximately 3,000 staff and students have completed one of the many MHFA courses on offer, including the standard course, youth, medical and nursing, tertiary and workplace MHFA courses. Courses are delivered via either face to face learning or a blended model that includes both online and face-to-face components. During the COVID19 pandemic, fully online courses became available. The University offers MHFA courses, at no cost to participants, which undoubtedly contributes to the high program uptake rates.
Although the ultimate outcome of the training is to improve mental health literacy and confidence in applying mental health first aid skills among students and staff, UWA are finding that an unexpected benefit is the impact that the training is having on the broader the community. The training is changing the way staff are talking about mental health.
Emma Boyne, the Team Leader at the Health Promotion Unit said, “We’ve noticed that when enough staff are trained in MHFA, the stigma and barriers that can prevent people having conversations about mental health are reduced.”
UWA’s MHFA Instructors are a valuable resource for the university and their enthusiasm, expertise and dedication to improve mental health literacy are critical to the success of the award winning Fit for Study program. To ensure the sustainability and quality of their Mental Health First Aid training program UWA provides professional support to their Instructors and opportunities for debriefing, professional development, co-facilitation and access to a comprehensive MHFA activity kit. They also encourage and support faculties to embed the training into curriculum.
We caught up with Emma Boyne, Team Leader and MHFA Instructor at the University of WA to talk about the university’s Health Promotion Unit; it’s role and growth and the importance of improved mental health literacy.
Click on the videos below to see clips from this interview.
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