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Prioritising student and staff mental health

Hundreds of TAFE Queensland staff are supporting their colleagues and students’ mental health after completing training with Mental Health First Aid Australia.

Overview

  • As part of TAFE Queensland’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy, Mental Health First Aid Australia was engaged to deliver its standard program to staff, including teachers, so that they could then confidently identify and respond to staff and student mental health issues.
  • Initially designed for teaching staff, the engaging and important program was also offered to leaders and services staff.
  • Eleven TAFE Queensland staff are now official Instructors of the Mental Health First Aid Australia (MHFA) Standard program, and as of April 2024 more than 500 TAFE Queensland staff members have completed this in-demand two-day course. 
mental health logo

TAFE Queensland employs more than 5000 staff, with 40% employed outside of South East Queensland – many in remote and regional areas.

TAFE Queensland’s student cohort spans those aged under 25 (high-school students, apprentices, and school leavers) to over 25s (reskilling or upskilling in their current careers).

A significant demographic reach – all with different external pressures and consequently – mental health risks.

Opportunity

In 2020, in response to a growing number of enquiries from staff as to how best support the increasing number of students disclosing and/or presenting with mental health issues, TAFE Queensland launched its Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy

Part of this multifaceted strategy comprised a program made available to TAFE Queensland teachers and trainers to undertake mental health first aid training, ensuring they were consistently and comprehensively educated on how to recognise and respond to student mental health issues.

The brief and reach soon expanded as TAFE Queensland management encouraged the importance of supporting and attending to colleagues’ mental health too.

Solution

TAFE Queensland engaged the highly regarded not-for-profit Mental Health First Aid Australia to begin equipping its teachers and trainers with the knowledge and skills to support students experiencing and/or disclosing mental health issues.

Course content includes how to identify common mental health problems, how to respond and recognise worsening mental health, and the avenues for treatment, including professional support – all of which feature on a detailed evidenced-based action plan.

TAFE Queensland’s Brandon Taylor also became an accredited Instructor of the Standard Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course and began delivering the two-day program to those teachers and trainers who had originally reported concerns for their students.

Taking training in-house was a strategic decision to ensure staff training needs could be met responsively, and with shared understanding and context.

Results

Within the first year of the MHFA program being offered TAFE Queensland trained more than 420 staff (now more than 500), and currently has 11 MHFA internal Instructors – at least one available per region.

“There has been a very clear expression of appreciation from participants that our organisation is taking a proactive approach to the wider challenge of mental health and wellbeing in the tertiary sector,” shared Mr Taylor.

Staff have also shared that MHFA training and its Action Plan has proved useful outside of work – drawing on both to help them support their own loved ones with mental health challenges. 

“The content was presented in such a way I could relate to it very easily - the videos of real people sharing their journey was mind blowing and super enlightening. I thought Iknew what people with mental health challenges faced, but I really didn't until the MHFA course.” - Staff participant feedback

 

Future plans

“MHFA is now seen and regarded as a ‘must have’ within our organisation for teachers and trainers, and our team leaders and managers are actively asking to attend. We want to achieve status as an MHFA Recognised Workplace and hope to progress this soon,” shared Mr Taylor.

TAFE Queensland also plans to expand its training program to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander MHFA courses for staff who work in First Nations communities and training roles. Similarly, we are also focused on ensuring our staff in regional and remote areas get access to MHFA training.

How we can help your business

TAFE Queensland can help upskill your workforce and take advantage of funding opportunities