Nurses and other key staff at the forefront of the coronavirus response in England are being offered training in “psychological first aid” to help them look after their own mental health and that of others during the pandemic.
The free online course has been developed by Public Health England and will be available from today for frontline workers and volunteers who deal with people affected by Covid-19.
“This course will help frontline workers to support those most in need both through the coronavirus outbreak and beyond”
The programme was announced today by mental health minister Nadine Dorries, a former nurse who in March became the first MP in Westminster to test positive for the virus.
The government recognised the impact the coronavirus outbreak continued to have on the mental health of both staff working as part of the response and the wider public who may have lost loved ones or are struggling in isolation.
The first aid course follows a globally recommended model for supporting people during emergencies and is tailored to the specific challenges of Covid-19.
It aims to enable responders to develop their skills and confidence in providing key psychological support to people affected by the pandemic, including on issues such as job worries and bereavement.
In addition, the course will also help staff to develop an understanding of how emergencies such as Covid-19 can affect the nation, how to recognise people who may be at increased risk of distress and what to do about it.
Announcing the course, Ms Dorries stressed that supporting one another’s mental health and wellbeing was “more important than ever during these challenging and uncertain times”.
“Staff and volunteers in many different roles are working tirelessly to provide crucial support at this time and are often a critical touchpoint in identifying those who may be affected,” she said.
“This new training course will help to support the incredible work of frontline workers to support those most in need both through the coronavirus outbreak and beyond, equipping them with vital tools to deliver psychological first aid.”
Commenting on the launch of the course, Yvonne Doyle, medical director at PHE, said the pandemic has had a “profound impact on all of our daily lives and none more so than our frontline workers who are seeing the effects of the outbreak first hand”.
“Our training course aims to provide frontline staff and volunteers with additional resources on how to take care of their own mental health and wellbeing, how to provide support to those who need it most and advice on how to cope with difficult situations,” she said.
Meanwhile, Claire Murdoch, a nurse and NHS England’s national mental health director, said: “NHS staff have been working around the clock in the face of the biggest challenge our health service has ever faced, which is why it’s so important that staff are properly supported with their mental health.”
She urged staff to use the new training course, as well as a helpline that was launched by the health service in April to support frontline staff with their mental health during the Covid-19.
“Psychological first aid training and a new text, online and telephone support service are just some of the many ways staff can be supported and I would urge anyone with concerns about their mental health to come forward to a colleague, your occupational health team or our helpline so that we can get you the help and support you need,” added Ms Murdoch.
Developed by PHE with support from NHS England and Health Education England, the course is available to frontline workers across England via social learning platform, Future Learn.
Psychological first aid is used world-wide to support those in need of mental and wellbeing support in emergency situations and the World Health Organisation and United Nations have supported its use in response to coronavirus.
Frontline responders can access the course, which takes 90 minutes to complete, for free and with no previous qualifications needed to be enrolled.
Those who carry out the online training will receive a free digital upgrade so that they can gain unlimited access to the course and articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes, as well as a PDF certificate of achievement.
Nursing Times has launched a campaign called Covid-19: Are You OK? to ensure that supporting nurse mental health is on the radar of employers.
The campaign aims to highlight the mental health pressures and needs of nurses during and after the coronavirus pandemic, and lobby for immediate and long-lasting support.