University of Alberta lauded for mental health first aid efforts

(Edmonton) The University of Alberta is being recognized for its leadership in promoting mental health awareness.

The award, presented by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, is the first one given to a Canadian university for its support of the commission’s mental health first aid program. The program, created in 2001 by Australian researchers, has been adapted by over 18 countries worldwide, including Canada. The Canadian version of the program came under the commission’s leadership in 2010.

“We were proud to present the University of Alberta with this award,” said Sandy Allen, program director of Mental Health First Aid Canada, in a statement. “The University of Alberta has been dedicated to mental health first aid for a very long time and continues to show its unwavering commitment to our program, as well as to its staff and students, by offering such valuable training.”

The university has been offering the program on campus since 2008 as part of its Facing Facts campaign, which is designed to tackle the stigma associated with mental illness. Since its inception, more than 250 U of A staff members, those who have regular interaction with students and staff, have taken the mental health first aid training program. The program provides trainees with the skills needed to appropriately assist staff, students or faculty who may be dealing with mental health issues at a critical moment, acting as a first line of support until professional treatment protocol or resources are established.

“We do consider mental health first aid to be a very important element of Facing Facts. Certainly the in provost’s office and among the administration, we see this issue as being of critical importance that our front-line staff have the skills to properly assist someone who is dealing with a mental illness,” said Colleen Skidmore, vice-provost (academic). “It is strong evidence of the importance of this issue that Health Promotions and WorkLife Services has very little difficulty filling four classes every year.|

“On behalf of the University of Alberta, I would like to thank the Mental Health Commission of Canada for their support and for this wonderful recognition of the many successes that we have achieved in this area.”