Spot the signs – Staff to get mental health first aid training

19 October 2018

Every member of staff at the University of Buckingham will be given mental health first aid training so they can spot signs of potential distress among students.

All university employees – from professors to support staff – will be enrolled on a half-day training course in mental health. They will also be able to sign up for a longer two-day course if they want to become a mental health champion.

Dee Bunker, head of welfare at Buckingham, said: “We will teach about the signs and symptoms of stress and of someone who is depressed: not being engaged, not attending classes, a lack of eye contact or a lack of sleep.

“If someone is anxious you may find them pale, sweating, wringing their hands or nervous. They may not be able to concentrate, look you in the eye, hold a conversation, sit still or sit in same room with you.”

Staff will be asked to consider that if a student is falling asleep in a lecture there is a possibility that this is an indication that they are not sleeping due to anxiety. However, clearly there could be a less serious explanation.

“Our hope is that no member of staff would ever walk past anyone who is upset. This training gives people the knowledge and confidence to say: ‘Are you ok? Is there anything I can help with?’ and signpost them towards where they can get more help.

“It won’t make you an expert – but it means you won’t ignore someone who is distressed.”

Sir Anthony Seldon, the university’s Vice-Chancellor,  said: “No member of staff should walk past a student clearly in distress. One of the aims is to save lives – we should all be playing our part in helping with student welfare.”

Buckingham is hosting the Ultimate Wellbeing in Education conference in London this Friday with the International Positive Education Network (IPEN.)