Up to 8,000 medical students, including those from UWA, will get access to mental health first aid (MHFA) training over the next two years under an agreement between the Australian government and Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand.
The online training program has been specifically designed for medical students and teaches them about the risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems such as anxiety or depression, and where and how to get help.
Students who participate in the program can then complete the second facilitated part of the training if they wish, to get MHFA accreditation lasting three years.
UWA Professor Jon Watson, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, said the program was important to teach medical students how to look after their mental health.
“Whilst it is a great privilege for us to be doctors, medicine can be a stressful profession and it is only recently there is greater awareness that providing the technical skills and knowledge is not enough to prepare someone to become a good doctor,” Professor Watson said.
“We need to teach students about the importance of looking after their mental health, how to have difficult conversations with patients or colleagues, and how to make a good contribution to society.
“Particularly with added study pressures that COVID-19 brings, supporting the wellbeing of our medical students and practitioners has never been more important. If we don’t look after our doctors, then they can’t look after us. And that must start right from the beginning of their training.”
President of Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand, Professor Richard Murray, welcomed the funding saying MHFA training was a valuable additional skill for students.
“Medical students themselves can be at risk of mental health issues, as can their friends and peers. Being able to recognise the signs that either they or someone around them might be in need of help and support, and how that can be accessed, can make all the difference,” Professor Murray said.
“This online teaching of foundational and practical first aid skills is a very useful addition to the health and wellbeing support services that are available to students at their medical school.”
Medical students who participate in the training will have 12 months to complete the program, which is self-paced and includes case-based scenarios, videos, multiple choice quizzes and more.
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