It's the simple things you do first that start the process of help’: Undergraduate nursing and midwifery students’ experiences of the Mental Health First Aid course



      Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is the initial help offered to a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The MHFA course is a 12 h evidence-based course which teaches members of the general public to provide first aid assistance until the crisis resolves or the individual receives professional help. While the MHFA program does not teach people to provide a diagnosis or treat mental health conditions, it has been established as an effective tool in improving mental health literacy, reducing stigma and increasing helping behaviours.


      The aim of the study was to explore the experiences of students who completed a tailored 13-h version of this MHFA course specifically developed for undergraduate nursing and midwifery students.


      Sixty-six students, the majority of whom were female and aged 17–55 years, completed an online survey. The survey sought to explore the perspectives of students in respect of both undertaking the course as well as its value in retrospect. Areas explored in the survey included: relevance and value of content; strengths and weaknesses of the course; if and how they had applied any of the skills learnt and overall perceptions of the course.


      Findings showed that the vast majority of students (86%) regarded the course as appropriate for nursing and midwifery students with 89% stating they would recommend the course to other university students.


      Data indicates that the course had application and impact following completion beyond what had been anticipated by the students. Responses to the open ended questions suggest widespread support for the routine offering of this course for beginning nursing and midwifery students nationwide.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Collegian
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Australian Bureau of Statistics
        2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of results. (Document 4326.0).
        ABS, Canberra2008
        • Bovopoulos N.
        • Kelly C.
        • Bond K.
        • Kitchener B.
        Mental Health First Aid: Supplementary booklet for nursing students.
        Mental Health First Aid Australia, Melbourne2013
        • Crawford G.
        • Burns S.K.
        • Chih H.J.
        • Hunt K.
        • Tilley P.J.M.
        • Hallett J.
        • et al.
        Mental health first aid training for nursing students: A protocol for a pragmatic randomised controlled trial in a large university.
        BMC Psychiatry. 2015; 15: 26
        • Cvetkovski S.
        • Reavley N.J.
        • Jorm A.F.
        The prevalence and correlates of psychological distress in Australian tertiary students compared to their community peers.
        Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 2012; 46: 457-467
        • Evans W.
        • Kelly B.
        Pre-registration diploma student nurse stress and coping measures.
        Nurse Education Today. 2004; 24: 473-482
        • Happell B.
        • Wilson R.
        • McNamara P.
        Undergraduate mental health nursing in Australia: More than Mental Health First Aid.
        Collegian. 2014; (in press)
        • Happell B.
        • Gaskin C.J.
        The attitudes of undergraduate nursing students towards mental health nursing: A systematic review.
        Journal of Clinical Nursing. 2013; 22: 148-158
        • Jorm A.F.
        Mental Health Literacy: Empowering the community to take action for better mental health.
        American Psychologist. 2012; 67: 231-243
        • Jorm A.F.
        • Kitchener B.A.
        Noting a landmark achievement: Mental Health First Aid training reaches 1% of Australian Adults.
        Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 2011; 45: 808-813
        • Kitchener B.A.
        • Jorm A.F.
        Mental Health First Aid Training: Review of evaluation studies.
        Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 2006; 40: 6-8
        • Kitchener B.
        • Jorm A.F.
        • Kelly C.M.
        Mental Health First Aid Manual.
        2nd ed. Mental Health First Aid Australia, Melbourne2010
        • McCann T.V.
        • Lu S.
        • Berryman C.
        Mental Health Literacy of Australian Bachelor of Nursing Students: A longitudinal study.
        Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. 2009; 16: 61-67
        • Mental Health First Aid Australia
        International Newsletter Edition 4.
        2015, April (Retrieved from
        • Rella S.
        • Winwood P.C.
        • Lushington K.
        When does nursing burnout begin? An investigation of the fatigue experience of Australian nursing students.
        Journal of Nursing Management. 2009; 17: 886-897
        • Storrie K.
        • Ahern K.
        • Tuckett A.
        A systematic review: Students with mental health problems – A growing problem.
        International Journal of Nursing Practice. 2010; 16: 1-6
        • Trotter E.
        • Roberts C.
        Enhancing the early student experience.
        Higher Education Research and Development. 2006; 25: 371-386
        • World Health Organization
        Mental health action plan 2013–2020.
        World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland2013 (Retrieved from