I hope the first two weeks of school are going well! I know most of you are probably busy settling into the semester and starting to study for upcoming midterms. Yeah that’s right, don’t sleep on your studying because midterms are right around the corner! Even though you are busy, I think it is important to highlight an upcoming event called the Mental Health First Aid Workshop, which is taking place this weekend, September 26th and 27th. This event is a part of an ongoing initiative to raise awareness and provide education on mental health topics here at UVic. Last year the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) was a hit with attendees so they decided to bring back more mental health training! I think it is important that we continue the mental health dialogue and destigmatize any issues dealing with mental health.
What is Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)?
When someone is in physical distress or pain, they may require medical first aid to stabilize them before emergency crews can respond. Similarly, someone facing a mental health crisis may require a friend, peer or bystander to help until more appropriate treatment is found. This is where the MHFA training comes in. This course will help students gain skills to help others better manage their potential or developing mental health problems. Given that one in three Canadians will experience a mental health issue at some point in their life, it is almost inevitable that we will come across someone dealing with a mental health issue. That someone could be you, a friend, family member, or a person you come across in public. This first aid course will provide the skills needed to help these people early in their crisis or problem. For example, you can learn how to respond to someone experiencing a panic attack.
How long is the MHFA workshop and what topics will be covered?
The workshop will be 12 hours long spread over two days, Saturday September 26th and September 27th. It will run from 9:30 am – 4:00 pm on both days. There is also a second opportunity to attend the 12 hour training, which is spread over four nights (Tuesday, October 13th, Thursday, October 15th, Tuesday, October 20th, Thursday, October 22nd). The cost of the course is normally in the $200-$300 range, however, we are fortunate that the course has been subsidized to $50 for UVic students. The 4 topics covered will include:
- Introduction to mental health
- Mood disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Psychotic disorders
How can Mental Health First Aid training benefit the UVic campus?
We all know how stressful and challenging university life can be. Students are especially at risk for depression and anxiety among many other mental health challenges. The NCHA survey conducted at UVic found that 51.7% of students “felt things were hopeless”, 36.4% “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” and 20.6% “felt overwhelming anxiety.” Other mental health issues like schizophrenia and psychosis tend to start showing symptoms in the early 20s, a time when many of us are still in a university setting. If students, staff and faculty are better trained in identifying and supporting these conditions then we can help refer those in need to the proper treatment. Early interventions can play an integral role in preventing mental health problems from turning into full-blown crises.
How can the Mental Health First Aid training help your future?
This training can be beneficial to any career or field you choose to pursue. For example, if you are pursuing a career in health (e.g. physician, pharmacist, nurse), you will definitely come across individuals dealing with mental health problems. Many of these people will have undiagnosed conditions and your training can help identify and refer them to help before things get worse. The skills from this course can also be applied to professions like: education, counseling, police, social/child and youth work. I think almost any career, job or volunteer position can benefit from individuals with these skills because you will eventually cross someone dealing with mental health issues. Even business and economic students pursuing a career in the financial district can benefit given the recent spike in suicide rates for finance workers. The MHFA workshop would also look great on your resume and CV when applying to health care programs, grad school, jobs etc. If I were an admission committee member, I would view this training as a unique experience demonstrating compassion and care for a marginalized group.
Although our struggles as students are real, they are often overlooked because the stigma surrounding mental health issues is also very real. In order to change this, we must start at the individual level. We can only begin eliminating stigma at a large-scale level by first changing our own attitudes towards mental health. UVic has many great resources to support students struggling with mental health problems. Reaching out for these resources should be seen as a strength, not a weakness. The MHFA is a great program to help facilitate change in attitudes towards mental health. Remember, there is no health without mental health.
The views expressed in this blog are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the University of Victoria. I monitor posts and comments to ensure all content complies with the University of Victoria Guidelines on Blogging.