Mental Health First Aid

Why mental health first aid?

We all have mental health, which varies to some degree, just as we have varying physical health. Mental health conditions are common. In any given year, up to 1 in 4 of individuals in the UK may experience a common mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. Moreover, the majority of mental health conditions develop before the age of 24 years. Attention in national policy for the NHS (England) is increasingly focused on early identification and prevention of mental health conditions (e.g., Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, the recent publication of the NHS Long Term Plan). One proposed component of early identification and prevention includes mental health literacy, defined by Jorm (1997, p .182) as the “Knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders which aid their recognition, management or prevention”.

Mental health first aid training

I recently completed the two-day Adult Mental Health First Aid training delivered by Mental Health First Aid England, which has enabled me to be described as a Mental Health First Aider (to learn more about the role, please click here). The training, first and foremost, focuses on improving individual knowledge (e.g., type of symptoms) of a range of common mental health conditions and is underpinned by the work of Kitchener and Jorm.

The common mental health conditions touched upon included depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, as well as personality disorders. Self-harm and substance abuse was  also explored, as were crisis situations whereby an individual expressed suicidal intent. In improving our knowledge and having open dialogue, the training seeks to reduce stigma.

The scope of the training

Our role as Mental Health First Aiders is to offer non-judgemental support (complimenting existing services provided), as well as signposting (in-house, local and national services). Importantly, those that are mental health first aid trained are not qualified mental health professionals (e.g., psychiatrist), and are not a substitute for professional support. During the training we were provided with practical tools for supporting individuals – this centred around the acronym A.L.G.E.E.

A – approach, assess, assist

L – listen non-judgmentally

G – give support

E – encourage to seek appropriate professional help

E – encourage to seek further support

Being a Mental Health First Aider is principally about hope – for support, for recovery, for the reduction of mental health stigma. In addition, the training emphasises that you should not neglect your own mental health and wellbeing in supporting others.

Next steps

Following the training, I am exploring ways in which my skillset can be incorporated into my place of work (a Higher Education Institution) and project (e.g., advertising – email signatures, posters etc.). It is important to be aware of what your workplace currently offers, and how you (and others) can complement that (utilise existing networks!). It is worth noting that many Higher Education Institutions hold ‘in-house’ training, and this is a useful option to improve your mental health awareness and knowledge of how you can support others (e.g., students, staff members). There are calls for Universities as a whole, and for supervisors in particular, to play a role in the early identification and prevention of mental health conditions in researchers, and having a degree of mental health literacy can facilitate this. Collectively, we can play our part.

Blog post written by Dr Rachel Moss (Twitter: @DrRMoss), Research Associate on the PGR Wellbeing project at the University of Portsmouth (School of Education and Sociology).

 

PGR Wellbeing Mid-Project Update

The mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate researchers (PGRs) (e.g., PhD, ProfDoc etc.) and the student population generally is in the public focus. Reports of the mental health difficulties of students (e.g., The Independent, BBC News) continue to make for concerning reading. In August 2018, I introduced the PGR Wellbeing project in a blog post for the MICE Hub – a project that aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of PGRs by improving mental health literacy and social support. We are now at the midway point for the project, which is due to be completed in January 2020. Our current project-related activities are as follows:

Pre-intervention survey
  • The pre-intervention survey was completed between October – November 2018 (n = 241), with further recruitment from Leeds Beckett University planned for February 2019.
  • Data analysis is ongoing, but the data suggests that the majority of researchers were experiencing mild-severe non-specific psychological distress, and that focusing on improving wellbeing generally may help to reduce this (e.g., improving individual knowledge of mental health conditions may be beneficial).
Interventions

 

 

 

 

 

Image – PGRs attending the co-production workshop in December 2018

  • We ran an initial co-production interventions workshop with PGRs December 2018, and sought feedback from PGRs for the proposed project-related interventions.
  • PGRs were interested in developing interventions, being PGR mental health ‘champions’ and representing PGRs at the University of Portsmouth at the UKCGE conference in May.

Online resources

  • An online development team at the University of Portsmouth have been seconded to develop online mental health and wellbeing resources with PGRs, ready to go live in October.

Mentoring circles

  • After the initial consultation with PGRs in December, mentoring circles will be developed and piloted with PGRs, the Graduate School and the Wellbeing Service, ready to go live in October.

Supervisor training session(s)

  • We delivered an initial supervisory training workshop in November 2018, which covered a wide range of topics included the role of the supervisor, pedagogies, and identification of mental health problems, guidance, and referral, amongst others.
  • A further workshop is planned for 12th February 2019 in the Graduate School.
Next steps for the project

We will be developing our project-related interventions (e.g., online resources, mentoring circles, supervisor training) with PGRs, ready to go live in October 2019. Our project partner, Leeds Beckett University, will be evaluating the tools and guidance that we develop at the University of Portsmouth from October 2019 onwards.

Conference

In partnership with UKCGE, Nature Research and the University of Sussex, we will be co-delivering/presenting an International Conference on the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Postgraduate Researchers from 16th-17th May 2019, at the Jury’s Inn Waterfront, Brighton.

The purpose of the event is to discuss and update delegates on sector policy developments (nationally and internationally), institutional strategies, research, and good practice in the field of PGR mental health and wellbeing. The conference is aimed at researchers, as well as practitioners, within Higher Education.

How can I keep updated on the progress of the project?

Project-related updates will be posted periodically on the MICE hub website and Twitter. General information about the project is available on the project-relate website. Details are as follows:

Email: pgrwellbeing@port.ac.uk

Twitter: @Pgrwellbeing

Project-related website

I would like to get involved/I know someone who may be interested

If you are a PGR (or know someone) at the University of Portsmouth who would like to get involved with helping us develop our interventions, please get in touch –  pgrwellbeing@port.ac.uk.

Blog post written by Dr Rachel Moss (Twitter: @DrRMoss), Research Associated on the PGR Wellbeing project at the University of Portsmouth (School of Education and Sociology).