Some readers may recall John Marsden’s 1988 book “So Much To Tell You”. It tells the story of a girl in a boarding school who ceases to speak altogether following a severe psychological trauma. We read about the awkward situations that develop between the girl, Marina, her fellow pupils and the staff. It’s even more awkward because they are all together 24 hours a day.
Twenty-nine years later, a residential college in Queensland, Emmanuel College (part of the University of Queensland in Brisbane) has introduced a peer support program for residents in order to “make them more aware of mental health distress among fellow students” (Hare, 2017).
Because it is derived from Mental Health First Aid, this program aims to equip students with the skills to deal with such situations when they arise. Mental Health First Aid “is given until appropriate professional help is received, or until the crisis resolves” (see more in the story “Mental Health First Aid training”, Panorama #62 December 2016, or on Panorama Online).
Assistant Dean Jenn Jasinski said the idea was not for students to provide diagnosis or therapy, but to “recognise signs and have a conversation that would encourage” seeking qualified help. 44 students have done the training so far, and many of them have expressed gratitude for having learned the skills to deal with difficult situations.
A recent headspace survey reported that 70 percent of students reported high or very high levels of psychological distress.
Hare, J. (2017, August 3). Students learn to spot mental health distress (The Australian)