Local instructors needed for NZ’s first youth Mental Health First Aid Aotearoa programme
Te Hau Toka Southern Lakes Wellbeing Group and Te Pou are seeking ten locals from the Southern Lakes region to become New Zealand’s first instructors of a new Youth Mental Health First Aid Aotearoa programme.
Focused on supporting youth aged 11-18, the innovative international training programme is currently being adapted for New Zealand-specific use by Te Pou (a national workforce development provider for the mental health, addiction, and disability sectors) and will be launched in the Southern Lakes region in June.
Te Hau Toka has funded the one-off development cost and, once the local new instructor training is completed, the programme will be made available nationally through Te Pou so that other regions can benefit.
Te Hau Toka Southern Lakes Wellbeing Group Chair Adell Cox says the Youth Mental Health First Aid Aotearoa programme will be vital in upskilling people working with youth to understand the challenges rangatahi are facing and how best to support them.
“Our focus is on prevention and early intervention with an equity lens so it’s vital that we give those working with our rangatahi the best world-leading knowledge, tools and support to do that.”
Instructor applicants must have proven experience working with youth in a variety of settings; have a strong and engaging presentation style; be trusted and deeply embedded in their local communities and from Queenstown, Wānaka, Central Otago or Fiordland; and be available to complete a five-day training course in June in Queenstown.
The programme that the instructors will learn to teach covers common mental health challenges and crisis experienced by young people including depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, substance use, and psychosis. Participants are taught an action plan that provides the steps to provide first aid to a young person experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis. It also covers how to communicate with young people and outlines professional support pathways.
Once the instructors pass the course, they will be certified to train other adults working with youth across the Southern Lakes region to become Youth Mental Health First Aiders. Those working in schools, sports clubs and youth groups, as well as youth caregivers, parents and whānau, will be a particular focus.
Te Pou Chief Executive Rae Lamb says there is a real need for targeted support for rangatahi in Aotearoa so Te Pou is thrilled to be able to bring the Youth Mental Health First Aid programme here with the support of Te Hau Toka.
“We know that about half of mental health challenges occur before 18 years of age and that early intervention can reduce the impact. Ensuring adults working with youth have the skills and confidence to provide first aid to a young person experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis will make a huge difference to the outcome.”
The catalyst for bringing the Youth Mental Health First Aid programme to Aotearoa was the need for more evidence-based specialised training to support young people. Te Hau Toka’s youth specialists identified the value and relevance of the programme and partnered with Te Pou in September 2022 to help implement it.
Once Youth Mental Health First Aid has been implemented and embedded across the country, Te Pou will look to develop the Teen Mental Health First Aid programme for use in communities in Aotearoa.
Expressions of Interest to be a Youth Mental Health First Aid Aotearoa instructor are being sought now. For more information, including the criteria and how to apply, visit the website.
Key stats and insights:
- Adolescence is the peak age of onset for mental health challenges. Half of all people who will ever have a mental health challenge will experience their first episode before 18 years of age.
- Early onset of some mental health challenges can increase the risk of future episodes but adolescents and young adults are less likely to seek or receive treatment than the wider population. This means that the adults around them can affect whether or not help is sought, and how quickly.
- Research shows that the Youth Mental Health First Aid course provides participants with the knowledge and skills needed to assist a young person who is experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis.
Image (Supplied/Te Hau Toka Southern Lakes Wellbeing Group): Mental Health First Aid Aotearoa master trainer Sarah Christensen teaches the new instructor training course.