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5 min read

The Need For Mental Health First Aid Training In Universities

Mental health awareness has become increasingly significant in recent years and it is accepted that there is a growing recognition of the importance of providing support and resources for those who struggle with the complexities of mental health issues. In response to this, universities are embracing mental health first aid training as a proactive approach to supporting the well being of their students.
Written by
Joanna Clare
Content Manager
Published on
May 23, 2024

Mental health awareness has become increasingly significant in recent years and it is accepted that there is a growing recognition of the importance of providing support and resources for those who struggle with the complexities of mental health issues. In response to this, universities are embracing mental health first aid training as a proactive approach to supporting the well being of their students.

According to statistics published in 2022 by the ONS, the suicide rate for higher education students was 3.0 deaths per 100,000 students in the academic year ending 2020. The mental health charity Mind states that one in every four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.

The Government has asked UK universities to implement best practice including the suicide safer universities guidance and includes guidance on sharing information in the event of a mental health crisis plus practical advice. There are also many additional organisations that have been set up in universities and in different areas around the UK to help those with mental health issues and how to recognise when someone may need help, which certainly isn’t always obvious. For example, Student Space is a mental health and wellbeing platform and in addition to that there is a wealth of information on the NHS website. Of course, often this isn’t enough so it is always recommended that you seek professional face to face guidance by consulting your GP, attending your A&E department or a crisis worker at the university who can guide you on what to do next.

Mental health is something that affects many people and I have personally witnessed the mental health struggles of someone close to me over the past few years that have resulted in several hospitalisations and has severely disrupted not only their education, but all aspects of their life. It is an unpleasant and often uncomfortable subject but one that needs to be brought out into the open and discussed more.

First aid training has traditionally focused on physical health emergencies such as CPR and wound care but the rise of mental health first aid training reflects a broader understanding of health that encompasses both the physical and psychological aspects. It equips individuals with the required knowledge and skills to recognise the warning signs and symptoms of mental health issues. One of the key driving forces behind adopting such measures is the rise in mental health problems in students who face increasing levels of stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges.

By providing mental health first aid to students, universities can create a culture of support and empathy on site and trained individuals can become increasingly attuned to the well being of others, identifying and helping those in distress while fostering a sense of a non judgemental community.

Although many universities may use the resources of specialised and independent mental health counsellors, training opportunities within universities are not just limited to students but are available to staff members so that there is a larger and more diverse network that extends across all areas of university life. The impact of mental health first aid training goes far beyond immediate crisis intervention but also contributes towards a cultural shift which prioritises mental wellbeing  and takes the stigma out of necessary discussions around mental illness. By empowering individuals with knowledge and skills in which to support themselves as well as others, it plays a vital role in creating a safer, healthier, more accepting and supportive environment for students in which to thrive.

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