Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training is embedded in various tertiary healthcare curricula. However, opportunities for students to practise their newly acquired MHFA skills before entering the clinical practice workforce are lacking. The purpose of this study was to explore pharmacy students’ experiences of MHFA training and post-MHFA simulated psychosis care role-plays.
Final-year pharmacy students received MHFA training, after which they were invited to participate in simulated patient role-plays with trained actors, whilst being observed by peers, pharmacy tutors and mental health consumer educators (MHCEs). Immediately after each role-play, the role-playing student engaged in self-assessment, followed by performance feedback and debrief discussions with the tutor, MHCE and observing peers. All MHFA-trained students were invited to participate in audio-recorded focus groups to explore their experiences. Audio-recordings were transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed.
MHFA training was delivered to 209 students, of which 86 participated in a simulated patient role-play as a role-player and the remaining students observed. Seven focus groups were conducted with 36 students (mean duration 40 min, SD 11 min). Five themes emerged: scenario reactions, realistic but not real, mental health confidence, MHFA skills application, feedback and self-reflection.
Students enjoyed the post-MHFA simulated psychosis care role-plays, which provided opportunities to apply and reflect on their newly-acquired MHFA skills in a safe learning environment. These experiences enhanced students’ confidence to support people in the community, experiencing mental health symptoms or crises, and could be an add-on to MHFA training in the future.