About us

We are a company based in the South West of England. We provide support to employers and employees in managing stress at the workplace, recognising the effects of mental ill health and ways of taking good care of emotional wellbeing.

The company was founded in 2013 by its present Managing Director, Magdalena Wood. Astra is the main training provider of Mental Health First Aid training in the South West. The company also provides a full range of mindfulness programmes and training in stress management. Whether you are a private employer, local authority, NHS organisation, health and social care provider, school, college, a third sector or a public sector organisation you can make substantial improvements with our help and innovative services.

We are based in Exeter in beautiful Devon. We provide health and wellbeing consultancy services across the South West of England: Cornwall, Devon, Torbay, Somerset, Bristol, Dorset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire as well as in other parts of the country.

Magda picMagdalena worked for several NHS organisations gaining regional and national experience in the healthcare sector, programme implementation and commissioning. She also worked for the University of Exeter and in the voluntary sector. After working as a programme manager for two Strategic Health Authorities, Magdalena set off freelance with a passion to create a business with a difference.

Setting up a company was a natural progression of a growing portfolio of satisfied clients. It was also a response to market need for a dynamic, effective company providing creative training solutions to the private, public and voluntary sector.

  • Our mission:

    1. Positively engaging individuals and employers in reducing mental health stigma
    2. Actively promoting managing stress, through learning and mindfulness
    3. Commitment to enhancing practical skills set around mental health and emotional wellbeing

  • Our values:

    1. Inclusion and respect
    2. Doing business ethically
    3. Respectful and positive working relationships

Our accredited MHFA Instructors come from different professional backgrounds but all have two things in common:

1. passion about working with people and talking about stress management so that they can improve their emotional wellbeing and feel better about themselves;
2. commitment to enhancing practical skills set around mental health and reducing stigma.

Astra’s MHFA Instructors have been accredited and approved as MHFA Instructors and attended the full 7-day training program, which is accredited by the Royal Society for Public Health.

At Astra, we are positive about stress management and challenging stigma of mental health across different sectors and we have delivered training to a variety of public sector organisations and charities multiple, including:

  1. Small and medium businesses
  2. Front line NHS staff, including clinicians
  3. Local Authorities
  4. Housing Associations
  5. Police forces
  6. Fire and Rescue departments
  7. HR departments
  8. Schools and colleges
  9. And many more


Magdalena Wood

Founder and Managing Director – MHFA Instructor

Since 2007, I have gained an extensive training experience; designing bespoke training courses for public and third sectors, conducting training needs analysis, implementing training programmes across NHS organisations and delivering ‘Train the Trainer’ courses.
My training style is a facilitative one; apart from being passionate about the subject, I am grounded, empathic and able to relate to everyone.
For two and a half years, I worked as a freelance trainer for Devon County Council delivering a three-day Drink Driving Rehabilitation courses. While working for the NHS, I have delivered courses in Understanding Health Improvement and Cultural Diversity to front line staff, including clinicians, as well as to different local communities, including non-English speakers and in a local prison.
I have been approved as an MHFA Instructor in 2010 and have been delivering courses since.

I hold the City and Guilds Award in Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) and I am currently studying toward Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Certificate in Training Practice (level 5).

You can read more about my experience as a Project Manager here.

While I am not busy developing the company, I enjoy long walks on the beach with my dog, Zumba classes and trying out new recipes.


Jacinta Jackson

MHFA Instructor

I have both an academic and practice based background in Public Health and Community Development extending over 20 years. My work has been at community, city, regional, national and international level. I have worked in both statutory and voluntary sectors. My current role is in the NHS as a Public Health practitioner managing a Health Inequalities Team. Prior to that I have worked for a voluntary organisation supporting people with complex sensory and other impairments, other roles were with homeless young adults and at risk families.
My interest in mental health and wellbeing is spurred by having had personal experience of poor mental health and having had a career which involved a great deal of work with people facing hardship and discrimination known to be key influences on emotional wellbeing as well as physical health.
I am additionally qualified to provide learners the opportunity to have their learning assessed and accredited for the NOCN Understanding MHFA, Level 3 credit value 3.

Suzanne Oakes

MHFA instructor

I have over thirteen year’s experience working with people with mental health issues, providing support for a variety of client groups, including people with learning difficulties, head injuries, older adults, young people, substance misusers and offenders.

During this time I have worked as a counsellor, researcher, assistant psychologist and CBT therapist working with people experiencing depression and anxiety disorders. I have a degree in Psychology (BSc Hons), a diploma in Person centred counselling and a post graduate qualification in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for primary care.

I currently work for the NHS supporting clients and communities to improve their emotional and physical wellbeing and I deliver a variety of training in this role including motivational interviewing, MHFA and anti smoking campaigns. My training style is to be well prepared and knowledgeable about a subject whilst facilitating a groups learning in a warm friendly manner.

When I am not busy working I enjoy walking my dog on the beach, baking and practicing martial arts.

Peter Larkum

MHFA and Youth Instructor

As a freelance trainer I deliver a variety of courses across the UK, specialising in mental health training. I have delivered the MHFA course since 2010 and have trained professionals working within the NHS, local authorities, police and fire departments and privately owned businesses. I have also delivered the training to employees and volunteers from national and regional charities including The Prince’s Trust, Crisis UK, Stoneham Home Group and Thrive Mental Health. With infectious enthusiasm, passion and a people-focused approach, I use techniques including multi-media visuals, role play, discussion and debate.

I am also a professional youth worker with over 17 years face to face experience, supporting disenfranchised young people throughout England and Scotland. To compliment this, in 2013 I became a Youth Mental Health First Aid instructor to raise the awareness of mental ill health amongst young people and promote swift recovery.

Mental health is a complex and often difficult topic, so I keep the training engaging and enjoyable, whilst remaining sensitive to the personal experiences of delegates.

When I am not delivering training I manage a fantastic youth work project supporting vulnerable young people in and around Winchester, and enjoy spending quality time with my wife and baby boy.

Christine Carol

Youth MHFA and MHFA Lite Instructor

For the past 5 years, I have been working as a project and volunteer coordinator within the third sector. The current project is aimed at young people with experience of mental health distress and we use outdoor activities as part of their recovery journey. Whilst working with young people, I have found the YMHFA training invaluable.

I am a qualified Youth Mental Health First Aid and MHFA Lite Instructor and an A1 assessor. I am also able to offer NOCN YMHFA at Level 3, credit value 3. As a freelance instructor, I have delivered courses, to Schools, Colleges, Volunteering organisations and Care Professionals.

I have a strong and diverse professional background in coaching, business management, publishing and vocational education. I was also a carer for many years for a family member with mental ill health, which sparked my passion to raise awareness and overcome the stigma associated with poor mental health.

I have two wonderful children and in my spare time, I enjoy walking in our beautiful Devon countryside and getting to the beach as often as I can.

Damian Leigh

MHFA Instructor (in training)

I am an MHFA trainer in the exciting early stages of development. I have recently graduated with a BSc in Psychology from the University of Exeter where I at the same time provided voluntary support at the Mood Disorders Centre and Welcome Centre for a variety of research and support initiatives such as IAPT training, Netmums and the CADET project.
However, my educational pursuits have been highly motivated by personal and professional first-hand experience of mental health, an opportunity for which I am hugely grateful as I have developed an understanding of mental health in both an academic and real world setting.
As a trainer in the making and I am really looking forward to bringing my knowledge and experience to delivering the MHFA toolkit to help to challenge attitudes and beliefs surrounding mental health and, of equal importance, provide support and guidance to those who need it.

Lee Wood

Youth MHFA and MHFA for Armed Forces Instructor (in training)

I joined the Royal Artillery at the age of 17, served for nine years and along the way I witnessed and dealt with different mental health issues with young soldiers; bereavement, post traumatic stress, financial and marital pressures, to name just a few. Once leaving the army I experienced first hand the frustrations of re-integrating myself back into civilian life and the lack of support. In my role as an MHFA for Armed Forces Instructor I will be able to take the empathic approach to catering for the needs of the course participants.

For 12 years I have worked for the local authority, Devon County Council and the Children and Young People Services as a Team Leader in residential childcare. I have vast experience in working with young people from the ages of 8 to 16 supporting mental health in young people and dealing first hand with all types of abuse and complex issues. I am passionate about all aspects of child protection and safeguarding. My core skills in dealing with very complex types of abuse both emotional, physical, sexual and neglect have led me to embark on a role as a Youth MHFA Instructor.

My hobbies and interests include my wife, my daughter and two sons, mountain biking and keeping fit.