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Claire L. O’Reilly, Rebekah J. Moles, Evelyn Boukouvalas and Sarira El-Den
Suicide is a major cause of preventable mortality and primary healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, require appropriate training to communicate with and support…
Suicide is a major cause of preventable mortality and primary healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, require appropriate training to communicate with and support people at risk of suicide. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training teaches participants how to communicate with and support people experiencing suicidal thoughts. The purpose of this paper is to use a novel MHFA assessment approach involving simulated role-plays enacted by people with a lived experience of mental illness and explore MHFA participants’ and simulated patients’ views of participating in simulated role-plays of mental health crises.
MHFA is embedded into the Sydney School of Pharmacy curriculum. Post-MHFA training, pharmacy students were randomly allocated to participate in or observe a simulated role-play of one of three suicide crisis scenarios, with a person with a lived experience of mental illness. Two purpose-designed, semi-structured interview guides were used to conduct student focus groups and interviews with simulated patients to explore their views. Focus groups and interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim and thematically content analysed using a constant comparison approach.
In total, 22 pharmacy students participated in two focus groups and three simulated patients participated in interviews. Five themes emerged including: the benefits of participating; the value of having a lived experience; challenges with suicide assessment; communication; and the value of immediate feedback and debrief.
Students and simulated patients both benefited from participating in the role-plays. Students valued practicing their MHFA skills post-training with simulated patients with lived experiences. This unique approach to post-training assessment provides an opportunity to practice skills realistically and authentically, in a safe, learning environment.