Eleven teachers and classroom assistants at an East Sussex school went to work as qualified Mental Health First Aiders for the first time on Monday 4th December – the same day the Government set out plans for transforming young people’s mental health services. The staff from Lewes Old Grammar junior and senior schools, together with a senior member of the management team, volunteered to take part in two days of specialist training. This followed a compulsory mental health awareness day held for all 126 staff in September.
Aiming to train over 3,000 school staff by 2020
The course was delivered by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England – the organisation charged with delivering the government-funded Youth MHFA in Schools programme. As part of this initiative, every state secondary school in England is being offered the opportunity to train a member of staff as a Youth MHFA Champion, with the programme aiming to train more than 3,000 school staff by 2020. LOGS Headmaster Robert Blewitt said: “Like most schools, we have seen an increase in matters related to self-harm and eating disorders with more and more children of every age apparently not coping with ordinary day-to-day pressures. Social media has undoubtedly been an important contributing factor in that.”
“1 in 4 showing evidence of ill mental health”
Caroline Hounsell, Director of Partnerships, Product Development & Training and Youth Lead at MHFA England, said the aim was to help school staff to spot signs and symptoms of mental ill health and equip them with the skills and confidence to “start conversations on mental health, listen non-judgementally and guide young people to further support. It’s estimated that half of young adults with mental health issues have symptoms by the age of 15, and nearly 75 per cent by their late teens, with one in four children showing some evidence of mental ill health, including anxiety and depression. Social media, peer pressure, bullying and family units breaking down are all thought to be contributing factors, however issues affecting young people’s wellbeing can often remain undetected and untreated unless schools take an active role.”
In addition to introducing Mental Health First Aiders, LOGS plans to include a qualified counsellor on the teaching staff and run mental health awareness evenings for parents.