Concerned about the rise in mental health issues among international students, a team from Wintec took their Mental Health First Aid workshops across New Zealand this year, and they now have a waiting list.
Louise Faulkner has seen many cases of mental health issues in her role as International Student Services Manager at Wintec and says some are not as easy to spot, and it can take years of experience to identify the signs.
“I like to think our team is very good at spotting the signs of mental health,” she says. “But after attending a pilot workshop we held here at Wintec on Mental Health First Aid in early 2017, it reinforced what we were already doing well, and gave us a framework to work with.”
That framework is demonstrated in the series of Mental Health First Aid workshops delivered by Wintec academic Sarah Christensen, who draws on her long experience in mental health nursing and her tutoring role at Wintec’s Centre for Health and Social Practice.
“The Wintec Mental Health First Aid course teaches participants skills to provide initial help to people experiencing depressive, anxiety, psychotic, substance use disorders and associated crises,” says Sarah.
After discussion with the International Education Association New Zealand Inc. (ISANA NZ), Wintec put forward a proposal for funding from the International Student Wellbeing Strategy to roadshow the workshops with other tertiary education providers working at the frontline with international students.
The proposal was successful and in early 2018, Wintec partnered with ISANA NZ to deliver five Mental Health First Aid courses in Auckland, Hamilton, Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington.
The first workshop sold out in two days, and there’s now a waiting list for future workshops.
The team has also delivered four Mental Health and Wellbeing courses internally to Wintec staff and by the end of the year, close to 100 Wintec staff members will have completed the programme.
“Next year we’ll train more staff at Wintec and we plan to offer some courses to the general public,” says Sarah.
The feedback from participants has been extremely positive so far.
“We hope these workshops will give tertiary staff more confidence to reach out and support students, and help them understand how, when and where to refer students to get the right help when they need it,” says Louise.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and in New Zealand it coincides with World Mental Health Day on 10 October. This year, the theme of World Mental Health Day is ‘Young people and mental health in a changing world’. For many young people, leaving home, starting tertiary study or a new job is exciting but it can also be a time of stress and apprehension. For international students, experiencing life away from home can be particularly stressful.