First aid for mental health initiative
The disciplinary domain of Medicine and Pharmacy has put in motion an education initiative to train staff in mental health first aid. The idea is to become more capable of helping undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students suffering from mental illness.
Unfortunately, mental illness has become a widespread problem in higher education. For example, a survey by the Uppsala Students’ Union indicates that 30 per cent of respondents suffer from anxiety every week.
One measure for addressing the problem is teaching more people mental health first aid. Many of us are familiar with the concept of helping severely injured people through cardiopulmonary resuscitation. But we are probably less aware that first aid can be administered for mental health.
The Medicine and Pharmacy disciplinary domain is now working to train personnel in mental health first aid.
“The idea is that we can better help undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students suffering from mental illness,” says Matts Olovsson, pro dean for education at the bachelor’s and master’s levels at the Medicine and Pharmacy disciplinary domain.
In a first step, six teachers will be trained as instructors in the validated method Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). Those teachers will then conduct courses for study counsellors, programme administrators, course administrators and, later, teachers and supervisors.
“We have chosen this path because MHFA is a validated concept. The instructor course will take place in the autumn of 2021, and then we will begin our own training for our staff. We are testing this concept now to see how it works.”
- Mental Health First Aid (Article 7, October 2020)
- Uppsala Students’ Union report (in Swedish): Studenternas psykosociala arbetsmiljö (“Students’ psychosocial work environment”), 20171124
As a quick mnemonic device and introduction to first aid for mental health, you can refer to the ALGEE steps. This essentially involves being a fellow human being willing to ask questions and help a colleague who is mentally unwell so they can receive help from other resources. ALGEE stands for:
- Assess the situation and make contact.
- Listen non-judgmentally.
- Give reassurance and information.
- Encourage appropriate professional help.
- Encourage self-help and other support strategies.