Integrating mental health simulation into routine health-care education

A comment piece on barriers and need to integrate mental health simulation into healthcare training.

Attoe, C., Kowalski, C., Fernando, A., & Cross, S. (2016)


Although simulation training has a rich history in medical education, its use in psychiatry and mental health disciplines remains in its infancy. The experiential and interactive nature of mental health simulation affords an effective and engaging teaching method, with the flexibility to tailor scenarios to the learner’s needs. Learning objectives focus on interprofessional, multidisciplinary working at health-care interfaces, achieving relevance for participants irrespective of experience and seniority. Simulation in mental health improves participants’ knowledge, confidence, attitudes, and skills that are essential in health care, such as communication, reflective practice, leadership, and teamwork.

Issue at Hand

Several obstacles exist to effective deployment of mental health simulation to bridge the gap between education and practice and address care for mental health needs. Release time is challenging for all professions, as is the dearth of established curricula against which to match these important interventions. The funding and commissioning of education is a major barrier, as income streams follow individual professions, often with a significant skew at postgraduate level to medical training. This situation must be tackled either by securing buy-in from key stakeholders, acknowledging the benefits of creating courses for a wide array of professions, or acquiring sustainable funding for interprofessional training within our systems. Sustainability must be developed by integrating mental health simulation into educational curricula and programmes alongside complementary training in a blended learning approach. Mental health simulation can be expensive, and certain participants might be uncomfortable with the technology-enhanced methods of mental health simulation, while others might struggle with the reflective debrief process.


The ability of mental health simulation to bridge the gap between education and clinical practice, alongside its potential for interprofessional education and initial evidence supporting its effectiveness, merit its inclusion as a key educational tool in providing better care for mental health needs. Evaluation should progress concurrently with the systematic integration of mental health simulation into health-care curricula and training plans to ensure its sustainability and expansion. This integration should span undergraduate and postgraduate education, and continuing professional development across health-care settings and professions. Mental health simulation is poised to have a positive effect should the necessary support, funding, and progressive thinking be applied.

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