On Saturday March 12, 2016 ALTA hosted a Mental Health workshop for coordinators at our Belmont office training room. The workshop was led by Dr Peter Weller and Nisha Naira (Msc) who are both clinical psychologists. Many of our students have had very difficult home environments with both physical and psychological abuse, and tutors become aware of this through shared confidences or writing. We felt that it was in our best interest to provide some training for our coordinators to ensure they can spot behaviours that indicate risk to others and guidelines on how to deal with these.
Dr Weller gave clear guidelines on how tutors and coordinators should handle students in the classroom who may be dealing with mental health issues. He also stressed on the importance of setting boundaries when dealing with students, mentioning that due to the nature of ALTA classes there could be some instances of blurred boundaries if there was too much self disclosure on the part of the tutor. He spoke of creating healthy relationships by ensuring limits on interaction and that students know that that your involvement is temporary. After all, you are teaching them a life skill which should encourage autonomy and independence.
Dr Weller and Ms Naira also spoke about the characteristics of some mental illnesses and spoke about the importance of knowing the signs of distress and establishing screening, self-care and referral protocols which all ALTA coordinators and tutors should follow at all times. Dr. Weller gave an overview of the nature of mental health and the stressed that the diseases and their causes are as varied as the individuals coping with them, and that it is important, while keeping personal safety at the forefront, to treat others humanely.
In the follow up from the workshop ALTA will compile the protocol for review and adoption by the Association at the Tutor’s meeting on 25 June.