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Health professionals of tomorrow offered skills to enhance their health and wellbeing

Bond University has become one of the first in Australia to introduce a proactive and preventative counselling service for health and medical students, aimed at providing the tools needed to develop resilience during study and beyond.

The independent Gold Coast university is providing free individual counselling to every student in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine (HSM), along with establishing a psychosocial education initiative that includes mental health first aid training.

Registered psychologist, Felicity Miller, has been appointed as Manager of Student Health and Wellbeing to oversee the unique new program, which, unlike other university wellbeing programs, is targeted at all students studying for a career in the health sector. 

Ms Miller has supported tertiary students for more than two decades, joining Bond University after a 20 year career in counselling at James Cook University in Cairns. 

She said the introduction of wellbeing programs was becoming increasingly important, as university students showed elevated levels of stress compared to the general population.

"University students are some of the most stressed in their age group and medical students, often, even more so," she said. 

"We want to set students up to stay well, study well and succeed in their health careers, and I will be providing evidence-based psychological interventions to ensure this is the case.

"My aim is to encourage and support students to build resilience and insight, to learn how to manage difficult thoughts, feelings and experiences and to cultivate long-lasting healthy vitality and well-being through values-based actions." 

Ms Miller said since 2006, her personal and professional passion had been Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) - a mixed approach which integrates both cognitive and behavioural therapy 

"ACT, an empirically-based psychological intervention, uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies to increase psychological flexibility in university students," she said.

"We will be introducing the method during counselling, group programs and workshops where the students will learn to acknowledge what mental health looks like, how to address it and how to balance their health, social lives and study. 

"I look forward to continuing to work with students in the Faculty of Health Science and Medicine to equip them with the tools to not only work their way through their studies, but in the workplace as well." 

Bond University Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine Executive Dean, Professor Helen Chenery, said the appointment of Ms Miller was an important step in equipping students to thrive at Bond and in their future careers.

"Ms Miller will provide free and confidential services, in a safe and respectful environment, which will ensure our students reach their full potential, are healthy and resilient," she said.

"This is an ongoing service for all our students in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine and we are excited to be breaking new ground in this regard as one of the first universities in Australia to introduce this for each and every health student. I look forward to seeing positive results."

Ms Miller holds a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) and Graduate Diploma of Education, a Master of Education and a Post Graduate Diploma of Psychology. 

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