Faculties of Pharmacy and Medicine investing in Mental Health First Aid

16 November 2022

Students at Uppsala University's Faculty of Pharmacy

Students at Uppsala University's Faculty of Pharmacy

A survey at Uppsala University shows that mental illness is more widespread among university students than professionals of the same age. Now the Faculties of Pharmacy and Medicine is empowering all its employees with the knowledge and tools to provide first aid in acute mental crisis.

Mental illness is a rapidly accelerating challenge for our entire society. In Sweden, every third woman and every fifth man are estimated to suffer from an anxiety disorder at some point. Every day, four people in our country take their own lives, the number of long-term sick leaves linked to psychiatric diagnoses is increasing, and numerous reports show how university students are a hard hit group. In a recent study, 20 percent of the responding students at Uppsala University state that their study situation makes them feel mentally ill, and now the Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy is initiating an extensive knowledge investment in mental health.

“The ambition is for all employees at the Faculties of Pharmacy and Medicine to participate in the course Mental Health First Aid and learn more about mental illness and how to intervene in acute situations until professional help arrives. It is somewhat similar to the CPR trainings that many of us have already attended, but statistics show that the probability of having to deal with mental health crisis linked to mental illness is greater,” states Åsa Konradsson Geuken, University Lecturer at the Faculty of Pharmacy and trained instructor in Mental Health First Aid.

Awaiting the first session, thirteen people have gathered in an auditorium at the Uppsala Biomedical Center. At this initial stage, course administrators and study advisors are prioritized, two professional groups who are in daily contact with the faculties' many thousands of students. For twelve hours spread over four occasions, the participants will learn to identify symptoms of various mental illnesses, how to intervene in crises and where professional reinforcement can be reached.

The Disciplinary Domain's instructors in Mental Health First Aid
The Disciplinary Domain's instructors in Mental Health First Aid

“This is a very valuable initiative by the Disciplinary Domain. As a course administrator, I inevitably face situations where students express anxiety and, in the worst scenario, that they don't want to live anymore. Having the skills to interpret signals and to help the person through the most acute phase is extremely important, and when I heard about this course I signed up immediately,” says Sandra Bratt, course administrator at the Department of Medicinal Chemistry.

The initiative is equally welcomed by Uppsala University's Studenthälsan (unit for Student Health), giving support with issues caused by stress, low self-confidence and performance anxiety. With the needs increasing, Studenthälsan has periodically found it difficult to provide all the counselling required, and the Student unions of Uppsala have for several years pointed out the need for strengthened initiatives concerning students' mental health. In October 2022, Studenthälsan arranged Mental Health Week, drawing attention to mental health and well-being, and the need for knowledge is both far and wide, says Åsa Konradsson Geuken:

“The widespread lack of knowledge surrounding mental illness is generating both fear and stigma. We must understand that no one is their illness and that the person affected by mental illness primarily a danger to himself. It is also crucial that we all take responsibility for how we express ourselves. Every time someone blurts out "are you schizo" or "I feel a bit adhd", we undermine the terminology and trample on the ones really affected. After completing the course, each participant shall have the courage to ask how a person in crisis is doing, remain to listen to the answer and, above all, have the competence to intervene whenever necessary.”

Facts

  • The course Mental Health First Aid is planned to be conducted twice per semester with twenty participants per session.
  • The intention is to mix occupational categories over time, information about the course will be provided to affected groups.
  • Employees who want to know more about the course are welcome to contact one of the Disciplinary Domain's four instructors:
  • Åsa Konradsson Geuken, Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences
    Joey Lau Börjesson, Department of Medical Cell Biology
    Monica Sandberg, Department of Medical Cell Biology
    Caisa Öster, Department of Medical Sciences