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First Youth Mental Health First Aid Aotearoa instructors trained in Southern Lakes

Twelve Southern Lakes locals have become the first accredited Youth Mental Health First Aid Aotearoa instructors in New Zealand, along with two others from outside the region.

Focused on supporting youth aged 11-18, the innovative international training programme was adapted for New Zealand-specific use by Te Pou (a national workforce development provider for the mental health, addiction, and disability sectors), with funding provided by Te Hau Toka Southern Lakes Wellbeing Group.

The 14 new instructors, who work with youth in a variety of settings, are now certified to train other adults working with youth, in places such as schools, sports clubs and youth groups as well as caregivers, parents, and whānau, to become Youth Mental Health First Aiders.

Youth MHFA Instructors

The Youth Mental Health First Aid Aotearoa instructors are:

The 14-hour programme that the instructors will be delivering in communities 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 mental health 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.

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.”

Te Pou Chief Executive Rae Lamb says it’s fantastic to see over six months of development work come to life.

“There’s a lot that goes into the programme adaptation including integrating cultural considerations, lived experience, use of language, relevant data and research, and clinical treatment pathways to ensure it is relevant for Aotearoa. This is what makes it such a worthwhile programme.

“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. The value and relevance of the programme is well recognised internationally so we’re thrilled that, with Te Hau Toka’s help, it is now available in Aotearoa.”

Instructors will now begin delivering Youth Mental Health First Aid workshops across Queenstown, Wānaka, Central Otago and Fiordland. The next cohort of instructors will be trained in the North Island later this year.

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. The need for more evidence-based specialised training to support young people was the catalyst for bringing the Youth Mental Health First Aid programme to Aotearoa. 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.

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