UKAT presentation

In the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences there is a small team from across the schools,  although primarily based in School of Health, that has been formed to address growing concerns surrounding the Mental Health of our students (and staff).  The team have been trained as Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) trainers and are able to deliver both the Adult 2-day course and the MHFA Lite version (1/2 day).  We use a mixture of the two courses to deliver to staff and students.

Gay James (Senior Lecturer, Adult Nursing) and myself went to Leeds Trinity University on 5-6th April to the annual UK Advising and Tutoring (UKAT) conference:2017 to deliver a presentation entitled “Raising Awareness – Effecting Change; Mental Health First Aid for tutors and students.”

The presentation was to a mixed audience of staff from Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) incorporating both academic staff and student support staff that are working to address the agenda of personal tutoring and how to effectively support students, particularly in the light of the drivers that comes from the new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).  This framework addresses issues that relate to student support that have not previously been accounted for in metrics at HEIs.  This makes it a new and emerging area for research and for the development of best practice.

The presentation sought to identify and explain why Coventry University has sought to use the Mental Health First Aid courses, both the full adult 2 day and the MHFA Lite version to raise awareness of Mental Health issues across the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health (although not exclusively). The case is strong for its use amongst healthcare professionals, as not only are students likely to be meeting patients/clients who have significant mental health issues, they are also at personal risk of developing such issues as a direct result of the professions that they are striving to enter. All healthcare professionals carry a higher risk of burnout than the average population with female nurses at a 23% higher risk of suicide than the national average. The introduction of MHFA full course has been rolled out as possible to Academic Personal Tutors and the MHFA Lite has been successfully delivered to 544 students so far.  Our aim is to deliver the course to all our healthcare students by the end of next academic year.  In Physiotherapy, our 1st and 2nd years have all received MHFA Lite training and our 3rd years have received much of the teaching only not delivered as MHFA.

For our Physiotherapy students, we are conscious that for one third of their course they are on placement.  This potentially leaves them without their normal support systems in place, with new work places to accustom to every 6 weeks and possibly living alone with a high study work load as well.  Even such things as being too tired to exercise regularly can affect their resilience All of these factors can lead to our students experiencing a dip in their mental wellbeing. Also, as you will know, studying Physiotherapy is a seriously demanding pastime!  With these risk factors for MH issues present amongst our student population, it was time to begin to look for ways to support our students, give them tools for resilience and to raise the taboo on discussing MH issues.

Our feedback has been stunning!  It has been a fantastic privilege to be involved in this programme and the effects on our student population has been noticeable to staff.  Our students are happier to talk and address issues that relate to MH, although we still need to evaluate this more thoroughly to have firm evidence.  This teaching, alongside what we do with our Physiotherapy undergraduate students around emotional resilience, has brought about a definite change in the subjects that are reflected upon from placement.  We are hoping that the students raised awareness will follow them in to practice and that they will become strong resilient practitioners.

For further information on MHFA it is worth going to the website:

https://mhfaengland.org/

Also, there is a really helpful line managers resource which is available using this link:

https://mhfaengland.org/line-managers-resource/