Why mental health first aid is more than a Band-Aid

Mental Health First Aid workshop held with I AM HER in June 2019

Image: Facilitators Sarah Christensen and Marina Elisara lead mental health first aid workshop participants in conjuntion with I AM HE(R) June 2019.

Wintec is raising mental health awareness in the Waikato in an effort to destigmatise mental health concerns and increase access to support for students.

Growing demand for Wintec’s mental health first aid training has resulted in 20 public workshops, 170 trained staff and four facilitators so far in 2019. Now the programme is being offered to the wider community.

Wintec academic staff member, Sarah Christensen, spearheads the initiative.

“Tertiary students have been recognised as a vulnerable population for the first-time presentation of mental health problems. They are trying to balance life with study, work, family and financial demands and this can cause stress. It is important to teach them the skills to support one another.

“We tend to hear the words ‘mental health’ and automatically link them to mental illness. This programme helps increase mental health knowledge to reduce stigmatising attitudes, and therefore promote earlier help-seeking behaviour.

“These workshops emphasise that we all have mental health and that it’s as important to look after as our physical health.”

Students enrolled in Wintec’s Centre for Health and Social practice will also be trained in mental health first aid as part of the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing, which launches in October.

The training teaches the skills needed to help support a person in distress until professional help arrives.

“These workshops are for everyone from small businesses to industry and the wider community. The skills learnt can be applied to a peer, colleague or family member.”

Recent funding from the Ministry of Education’s International Wellbeing Strategy will help deliver five workshops directed towards homestay families and residential advisors with the International Education Association (ISANA). These will take place across Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Additional funding has been secured to reach international students with I AM HE(R) Charitable Trust.

Mental health first aid was initially piloted in 2017 at Wintec with one facilitator and two workshops. It’s success lead to 13 sold-out workshops and two trained facilitators in 2018, increasing to four facilitators and 20 workshops in 2019.

Find out more about Mental First Aid training for the public at Wintec.

Find out more about services and support for Wintec students.

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