New program fosters mental health education for students

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Spring 7-9-2011

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame, Fremantle Campus

Publication Place



A breakthrough program offered at The University of Notre Dame Australia's Fremantle Campus is equipping first and second year Nursing students with the skills needed to assist people experiencing acute emotional distress in a first aid scenario.

The Mental Health First Aid Training Program aims to develop a student's emotional first aid response if they encountered someone experiencing psychological distress prior to seeking professional help.

Senior Lecturer and Coordinator of Mental Health at the School of Nursing and Midwifery in Fremantle, Wendy Scapin, has introduced the program to give students skills and confidence in meeting the challenges of mental health situations in the community.

"Although mental health content is integrated within the Nursing degree from semester one, students further undertake specific Mental Health nursing content in the latter stages of their program," Ms Scapin said.

"Students are currently seeing a lot of clients in general settings with a mental illness. The program is about raising awareness of the mental health issues in the community and giving students the basic skills to initially respond to those in crisis".

The nationally accredited program was developed in 2001 by Ms Betty Kitchener and Professor Tony Jorm and operates under the auspices of the ORYGEN Research Centre at the University of Melbourne.

It gives students an insight to the symptoms, causes and evidence-based first aid treatments for people experiencing depression, anxiety disorders, psychosis and substance use disorders.

Through the use of interactive group activities, students are also provided with appropriate first aid skills and strategies to assist in scenarios such as a person experiencing a panic attack.

The program provides participants with an overview about how to apply the steps of mental health first aid in different scenarios.

First year Nursing student, Jasmine O'Brien, welcomed the opportunity to learn about mental health first aid.

"I believe that education in mental health first aid is invaluable," Miss O'Brien said.

"We were taught that 90 per cent of emotions are expressed through our faces.

"Hence if you appear friendly and comforting to people with mental health problems, they will be more willing to engage with you and more responsive to your advice."

The program will be offered three times a year from 2012.

For more information, contact the School of Nursing and Midwifery on (08) 9433 0223.

Media Contact: Leigh Dawson (+61) 8 9433 0569, Mob (+61) 0408 959 138