Position Statement: Mental Health First Aid Education

By: NAPSA | Posted on: 8 September 2016

The National Australian Pharmacy Students' Association (NAPSA) takes the position that mental health first aid education be prioritised, with completion of a nationally recognised mental health first aid qualification as a minimum standard.

This position is well supported by the current cohort of Australian Pharmacy Students. In the recent National Pharmacy Student Survey (NPSS), 4 in 5 Pharmacy students agreed or strongly agreed that mental health is an area of the curriculum in which they would like to see a heavier focus placed.

In 2013, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia recognised provision of mental health services as being of significant enough importance that they revised requirements of the inclusion of mental health screening and/or risk assessment, a component of the Pharmacy Practice Incentive Program in the Quality Care Pharmacy Program, to include mandatory minimum education standards for the pharmacy and pharmacy staff.

Mental health disorders are frequently encountered within the community, affecting one in five adults aged between 16 and 85 at any given time, and affecting half the population during their lifetime1. As community pharmacists are often the first point of contact for consumers regarding their health, individuals living with a mental health condition are likely to seek their assistance. Therefore, the integration of mental health first aid education in University curriculums to prepare pharmacy students with the knowledge and skills to provide an appropriate level of assistance is a necessity.

A study conducted in 2009 found that mental health training developed students' confidence in the delivery of mental health services, while improving recognition of mental health conditions and reducing associated stigma. Hence, there is an emerging consensus for locating mental health first aid education programs in Universities due to the belief that national reform efforts in mental health education will provide a unique opportunity for more professional development and clinical interventions.

Mental health first aid education should be a requirement of the Pharmacy Board of Australia, for registration of a pharmacist, much like physical first aid is. The importance of mental health first aid is substantial and only growing exponentially. At the student level there is support for a closer alignment between education and mental health. Therefore, this education added, as compulsory training should only mirror this exponential growth and become the starting point for enhanced healthcare to patients.

The National Australian Pharmacy Students' Association

  1. Government of Western Australia Mental Health Commission. 2010. What is Mental Health . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.mentalhealth.wa.gov.au/mental_illness_and_health/mh_whatis.aspx.