Section 5. Training and awareness raising
This section is concerned with the measures that can be taken to train members of the institution in different aspects of mental health awareness and to look at other means to raise the general profile of mental health issues among staff and students.
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5.1. The purpose of mental health awareness training
5.2. Who should receive training?
5.3. Who should do the training?
5.4. Embedding training: maximising participation
5.5. A model for an initial mental health awareness training session
5.5.2. Challenging stigma
5.5.3. Definition and effects
5.5.4. How to support those experiencing mental health difficulties
5.5.5. Summing up
5.6. Other means of raising mental health awareness
5.6.1. Mental health awareness campaigns
5.6.2. Resources and materials
5.6.3. Making an institution wide impact
5.1 The purpose of mental health awareness training
- There tends to be great variation in the level of awareness
of mental health issues within institutions. By providing at least basic
training for everyone, essential good practice, especially in terms of
creating a non-stigmatising community, are understood by all.
- Through training the institution can ensure that specific protocols
are followed uniformly to ensure a fair and consistent approach to individual
- Training can be very effective in building confidence and dispelling
fears, thus enabling people to accept their responsibilities and roles
at whatever level they are working.
- As part of the ethos of an institution with an educational mission,
there is an argument for an informed and enlightened community in terms
of mental health issues.
- A visible and regular mental health awareness training programme
acts as a constant reminder of the issues and related policy and confirms
a commitment to these issues by the institution
5.2 Who should receive training?
- Everyone in the institution, staff and students, should have some
basic awareness of mental health issues to enable them to recognise
when and where to refer and to work towards a non-discriminatory community.
This awareness may be partly achieved through more general mental health
awareness campaigns (see section 5.6.1).
However, actual training is also needed to determine whether the essential
messages of mental health awareness (see section
5.5) are understood.
- Following on from basic training, certain groups of staff or
students may benefit from more specific, customised training e.g. Students'
Union welfare staff, staff in residences, portering and security staff,
academic tutors, specific student support services, secretarial and reception
5.3 Who should do the training?
- Trainers may be identified within the institution especially
for basic awareness training. It may be possible to identify some staff
who are likely already to have some experience in this area (e.g. from
health or counselling services) or who could attend training themselves
in order then to facilitate training in their own institution (i.e. attending
a 'Training the Trainers' course). This approach can be cost effective
and some staff may be more receptive to training from colleagues who appreciate
the specific context within which they have to operate.
- For more advanced training on specific topics, it would usually be
appropriate to use external expertise. Many voluntary organisations
have local offices which can provide training as well as training materials
and national organisations also run programmes which can be taken to
institutions (see section 7 for examples).
Local health care trusts, mental health promotion workers and other
services may be able to work in co-operatively, perhaps opening up training
events to a wider audience, sharing costs and allowing useful interchange.
5.4 Embedding training: maximising participation
- One of the key challenges in developing a training programme
is to maximise participation. Especially with the introduction of legislation
around disability and special educational needs, ensuring that people
have actually received training, as opposed simply to having offered training,
is of special significance.
- A way to ensure all new staff receive basic mental health awareness
training is to build at least an introductory session into the staff induction
programme. Those who have participated at this stage are found to be more
responsive to further training during their career.
- In addition to new staff induction, liaison with staff development
can enable a session to be run regular as part of their programme.
- A more radical approach is that of seeking to make such training
compulsory. Although this may not be the common or current ethos, there
may be more reason to look at this in the context of related legislation
(e.g. Special Educational Needs and Disability Act with reference to the
inclusion of mental health difficulties)
- Training tied in to existing programmes of qualification and
career development will reach a wider audience e.g. working with teaching
and learning strategies or vocational qualifications for teaching staff,
front line staff (such as Welcome Host).
- Given time restraints, short, targeted training sessions may
be much more attractive to busy staff than whole day events. A series
of sessions run in conjunction with departmental meetings may make it
much easier for more staff to attend. In such cases, linking training
with departmental based discussions can make those attending more receptive
to issues which are directly relevant to them.
- Following a difficult situation or a crisis, connected with mental
health issues, there may be a good opportunity to offer a relevant training
programme to those involved. At these times people may be more aware
of their need for basic guidance on good practice and referral to enable
them to act more confidently in the future. Part of the debriefing (see
section 4.1.5) after a crisis
situation might therefore include a plan of action incorporating a number
of stages of training.
- Co-operation between training initiatives run by institutional
services and Students' Unions allows for efficiency of effort and resources
and is a positive means of involving the student community in dialogue
about best practice.
- Actual training sessions can be supplemented by training materials
available in a multiple of formats e.g. web based, written, audio visual.
These may be more accessible for those whose time for attending sessions
is limited and who may wish to build upon basic knowledge. Other alternatives
to standard training sessions could include events or exhibitions in conjunction
with academic departments looking at related issues (e.g. related research
- Identifying and using internal expertise, such as that connected
with relevant research work, can be efficient in terms of resources but
also raise the profile of the issues involved within the institution.
- A questionnaire or survey aimed at defining people's actual training
needs may result in greater participation if sessions are perceived as
being directly responsive to demand.
5.5 A model for an initial mental health awareness
Training in specific areas of mental health will normally be done by
professionals, whether internal or external, and various organisations
(see section 7) may be useful sources of
training personnel and materials. However, the basics elements of a mental
health awareness training session, suitable for all members of the institutional
community, are summarised in this section.
5.5.1 Introduction: this will contain the
aims and objectives of the session (i.e. raising awareness of the issues,
introducing understanding of what is meant by mental health and mental
health difficulties and key facts on roles and boundaries, confidentiality
and referral). It is also an opportunity to define 'mental health' i.e.
as something that everyone has.
5.5.2 Challenging stigma: challenging the
stigma and misunderstanding around mental health issues is a key part
of basic mental health awareness training. This part of a session lends
itself to group activities such as looking at the common misapprehensions
around mental ill-health through a group questionnaire, discussions of
media portrayal of mental ill-health or hearing the accounts of those
who have experienced mental health difficulties (see section
7 for resources).
5.5.3 Definitions and effects: this will
cover what is meant by the general terms such as mental health difficulties
and mental ill-health (see section 1.4)
and will touch on the difference between mental health difficulties and
distress. The stress is on the effects of mental health difficulties and
the dangers of labelling. Information on specific 'conditions' has generally
not been recommended as part of basic mental health awareness training.
However, for those who may wish to learn more, relevant resources (see
section 7) could be made available after
5.5.4 How to support those experiencing mental health
difficulties: this part of a training session gives some practical
insight into who and what can help those experiencing mental health difficulties,
with the emphasis that this is not just a welfare or support service responsibility.
It will be helpful to look at the range of people and services who can
be in a supporting role and, particularly, the appropriate lines of referral,
internal and external, specific to the institution. Practical guidelines
with institution specific information, in the form of a flow chart may
be helpful. This session will need to include basic guidance on confidentiality,
roles and boundaries and handling a crisis situation (see also section
3). The use of case studies within this part of the training may
be a useful way of gauging how well participants have understood key issues.
5.5.5 Summing up: at the end of an initial
training session there may be several individual queries which need to
be followed up. Participants could be encouraged to write queries on a
card to be handed in so that responses can be given after the event, but
also circulated to other members of the group. Further training needs
should be identified and requirements for follow up training.
5.6 Other means of raising mental health awareness
In addition to running training sessions, mental health awareness, from
issues around mental wellbeing to those concerning mental ill-health,
may be achieved through campaigns or events and the development of appropriate
5.6.1 Mental Health Awareness campaigns
- Awareness raising campaigns and events can be particularly effective
if tied in with national initiatives, such as World Mental Health Day,
as there will be access to relevant national and local resources and
messages will be reinforced by activities in the press and media at
the same time. Specific initiatives, such as 'Mindout for Mental Health'
- Drawing upon local organisations and initiatives is also essential
for efficient and wider reaching campaigning. It is worth establishing
regular liaison with, for example, the local healthcare trust's mental
health promotion staff as well as local voluntary agencies or support
- To maximise student and staff involvement, co-operative working
between institutional staff and Students' Union staff is critical.
- Campaigns that include practical activities (e.g. sessions introducing
ways to promote mental wellbeing, such as exercise sessions or alternative
therapies e.g. aromatherapy, may be particularly effective in terms of
general mental health promotion.
- Campaigns can be tied in to arts and cultural events with themes
associated with mental health included. This has been done very effectively
in many regions in conjunction with mental health promotion teams in the
community, and institutions may be well placed for involvement, especially
those with relevant academic departments.
- Institution websites and staff electronic news bulletins are
other effective ways of advertising mental health awareness events to
the widest possible audience
5.6.2 Resources and materials
- A resource included in the institution's library in addition
to distributed leaflets will allow for more detailed material on mental
health issues to be available to staff and students
- Resources and materials must be kept up to date especially those
that include contact details.
- In addition to an institution's own materials, many voluntary agencies
have excellent, free or low cost resources (see section
- It is important that there are materials available as widely
as possible, both as leaflets distributed throughout the institution and
accessible through the website. Specific details are needed of whom to
contact for referral purposes both internally and in terms of external
agencies e.g. the local mental health crisis intervention service.
5.6.3 Making an institution wide impact
The critical issue with mental health awareness raising is to make an
impact throughout the institution, not only with those who identify these
issues as part of their daily responsibility, to work towards a non-stigmatising,
well informed community. Training, campaigns and resources are all aimed
to achieve this. Other measures may include:
- The involvement of senior management not only in the development
of policy and protocol but in backing training and awareness raising events,
being present at relevant launches of campaigns and commending participation
- Ensuring that commitment to mental health issues and development
of training and awareness is referred to positively in formal institutional
documentation, committee procedures and relevant policy (e.g. equal opportunities).
- Encouraging support services to work co-operatively to bridge
different professional approaches and hence increase impact as well as
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