Mental Health First Aid
You may have heard the statistic that 1 in 3 of us will experience a mental health problem during the course of our lives (Government of Canada, 2006). This number is important because it shows us that mental health problems are common and can touch any of us at any given time.
Mental health was identified as a concern on the 2015/16 NAIT Student Engagement survey.
· 99% of students agree that mental health and well-being is important for academic success.
· 94% agree that NAIT has an institutional responsibility to promote mental health and well-being on campus.
· 64% agree that if they were experiencing a personal issue (e.g., stress, anxiety, depression) that was preventing them from completing their academic work, they would feel comfortable approaching their instructor.
Mental Health First Aid Training Course
This strong message from students has emphasized the importance of the Mental Health First Aid training course that has been offered to staff and students since 2014. This program teaches people how to properly identify and engage with someone who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.
This training has had a specific impact in the classrooms of NAIT.
Andrea Taylor is a Mental Health First Aid facilitator and works as the support services advisor at Souch Campus. Andrea sees the effect of stress on students daily.
“Many students at our campus experience overwhelming anxiety due to the high demands of their program. Knowing how to provide immediate help is key so that they are better prepared to face the challenges of their program,” she says.
At Main Campus, Laura Lucien-Bay, supervisor of Case Management in Learning Services, echoes the same sentiment. “Feeling supported is fundamental to our learning experience, and when we feel overwhelmed we need to ask for help. Knowing that NAIT instructors have the knowledge provided by Mental Health First Aid training can open that door for students”.
Lia Campbell, an instructor in Electrical Engineering Technology, took the Mental Health First Aid training.
“I found the Mental Health First Aid training very informative. This training has helped me understand impediments to learning that some students face while attending NAIT. By understanding what these impediments are, it is easier to recognize and support students in their efforts to succeed,” Lia says.
Talking about Mental Health with Students
Students are often willing to talk to an instructor about personal issues, which means instructors should have an understanding of mental health and how to help students who may be experiencing mental health difficulties.
“Getting the skills to identify the early warning signs through taking the Mental Health First Aid training can give staff the ability and confidence to help students as opposed to the helplessness or frustration they may have felt in the past,” says Margaret Marean, associate chair of Student Counselling “It is not uncommon to have instructors comment after taking training that, looking back, they had probably mislabelled students who had underlying mental health issues”.
Government of Canada. (2006). The Human Face of Mental Health and Mental Illness in Canada. Ottawa (ON): Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada.