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Mental health first aid at NTC

Homepage Feature — 10th October 2019

Mental health first aid at NTC

Mick Kane NTC Chaplain

Two years ago, NTC’s assistant chaplain and student mental health support worker John Murphy attended a Westminster Briefing on the state of mental health support in UK universities. He returned with two conclusions: first, issues of mental health among students at UK universities are rising and will continue to rise; and second, due to our hiring of a mental health professional in John, NTC were ahead of the curve when it comes to mental health support for students. 

In light of these, when John announced he was moving on from NTC earlier this year after 5 years, I have to say I was a little crestfallen. John’s expertise in the area of mental health had been a huge asset to chaplaincy at the college and we would have to look at how we would replace him.

Among these conversations, and with John’s help we came across Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). MHFA is a training course which teaches people how to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue. The MHFA England website claims, “MHFA won’t teach you to be a therapist, but it will teach you to listen, reassure and respond, even in a crisis – and even potentially stop a crisis from happening. You’ll learn to recognise warning signs of mental ill health, and develop the skills and confidence to approach and support someone while keeping yourself safe. You’ll also learn how to empower someone to access the support they might need for recovery or successful management of symptoms. This could include self-help books or websites, accessing therapy services through their GP, their school or place of work, online self-referral, support groups, and more. What’s more, you’ll gain an understanding of how to support positive wellbeing and tackle stigma in the world around you.” 

“I felt I came out the other end with a new sense of belief in my abilities to support someone in their experience of mental ill-health.” 

Mick Kane. NTC Chaplain

As we considered this, along with the unlikelihood that we would find a like-for-like replacement for mental health support at NTC, we wondered what support would look like in this area if it was shared out among a group of trained individuals. Instead of one person holding the well of knowledge on the subject, as helpful as that had proven to be, what would a community approach to mental health support look like? Could we identify a number of individuals in key student-facing roles and have them trained in MHFA?

This summer I’ve been going through intensive training with MHFA England to become a MHFA instructor. Part of my training included me undergoing the two-day adult MHFA training. Although the course is intense and heavy at times, which is to be expected, I felt I came out the other end with a new sense of belief in my abilities to support someone in their experience of mental ill-health. I have often said in the past that the area I have felt most ill-equipped in pastoral ministry, not just chaplaincy, was mental health support. I don’t feel like that anymore! The course definitely delivers on what it claims. 

Having recently been released to deliver the training I am now looking forward to gathering a team of MHFA-ers at NTC and putting this vision of enhancing our chaplaincy and student support services into reality. As well as faculty and staff being trained, we’re copying other education institutions in the model of having a group of students trained up too. This continues NTC’s long history of community existing across the lines of student/staff. We’re already in talks about how we can use the training to help equip church communities too! Get in touch with me if you think your church would be interested.

Please continue to pray for chaplaincy at NTC. Pray also for this new approach to mental health support at NTC.

Help & Support is available for you.

Here at NTC we have multiple people willing to support you. For Pastoral Support, Listening Support, Mental Health Support or Learning Support contact chaplaincy.