People suffering from common mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety are to be helped by a new breed of health professional. A postgraduate certificate in primary care mental health practice will lead to the post of "graduate mental health worker". The one-year work-based course has been devised with health care trusts, patients and carers and will be available from 11 institutions around the country later this year. The scheme is part of a government drive to improve services for people with mild to moderately severe psychiatric problems. Initial plans for the scheme caused consternation among mental health experts who were unhappy with the idea of people assessing or treating patients after only a year's training. It has since emerged that the workers will not have sole responsibility for assessment, triage or treatment, but will support more senior colleagues.

* The director of a unique University of Ulster course has been drumming up applications in Brazil - via videoconferencing. Dr Andrew Cooper, who leads the university's distance learning MSc in coastal zone management, was beamed into a recruitment fair in Sao Paulo last month. The course is part-time and web-based and since its launch four years ago it has attracted students from many corners of the globe including the Philippines, Mexico and Croatia, most of whom are already working in this growing field. Current students include a habitat restoration officer in Southampton Beach in New York State. "A big issue in the US is how industries which have fouled up the environment can make amends by restoring habitats or creating new ones," says Dr Cooper. The course covers the management of coastal land resources (that is beaches and salt marshes) and coastal water resources (estuaries, lagoons etc) and transferable skills. There is a fourth taught module - environmental impact assessment - on how to conduct a survey according to the standards of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment. It is taught via hypothetical and real case studies. Completion of the taught modules leads to a diploma. To gain the MSc, students must undertake a dissertation. These projects are producing various fresh ideas, says Dr Cooper. "A chap from West Dorset council looked at alternative uses of coastal defence structures such as wall groynes, which are built to trap sand. He showed how they could be used to put pipes out to sea or to give fishermen access to the sea."

* A thought-provoking show is being staged by curating students at the Royal College of Art (a postgraduate institution). This Much is Certain, opening on 13 March - admission free - will explore artists' use of documents and documentaries. See www.cca.rca.ac.uk/thismuchiscertain for details.

g.mccann@independent.co.uk

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