Mental health affects an individual’s ability to learn, work productively, cope with the stresses of life and socialise with others, all of which are integral to making a meaningful contribution to their education and achieve their maximum potential.

Children and young people are disproportionately affected by mental ill-health and record levels are struggling without getting the support that they need. Around 50% of all mental illnesses are established before the age of 15, and 75% before the age of 18.

In the average class of 15-year-olds:

  • 7 are likely to have been bullied
  • Six could be self-harming
  • One could have experienced the death of a parent

In any education or workplace setting, there is a legal requirement to ensure that they can provide treatment to minor or serious injuries or illnesses. Many of us have had some form of physical first aid training and learn how to treat common injuries and illnesses such as allergies or asthma, but children are more likely to need support with a mental health concern compared to an asthma attack or anaphylaxis with 1 in 8 children experiencing a mental illness between ages 5-19 compared to 1 in 11 suffer from asthma or 1 in 40 suffering a peanut allergy. Yet even though a teacher is more likely to support a mental health concern, mental health training in schools is not sufficiently provided and 70% of children and young people have not had appropriate interventions.

The impact of this disproportionate training is reflected in a recent report from Place2Be where they gathered data from schools across the UK during lockdown and documented that 4 in 5 teachers are not confident enough to recognise and support emotional problems amongst pupils. It is evident that more training needs to be done to enable schools with the tools to provide the mental health support that students so desperately need to thrive.

Mental health first aid (MHFA) teaches you how to recognise, assess, and assist a child or young person aged 8-18 who is experiencing a mental health concern. You will learn the skills and confidence to spot the signs of mental health issues in a young person and signpost them towards the support they need.

Like a physical first aider is not expected to be a doctor, these courses do not teach you to be a therapist or counsellor. A Mental Health First Aider will provide initial support to someone before signposting them to appropriate professional help.

Early intervention with mental health concerns is critical to preventing their condition from becoming worse and developing into a long-term mental health disorder. MHFA aims to give you the tools to provide support before crisis point, but with suicide being the leading cause of death for young people aged 5-19, you will learn how to assist someone in a suicidal crisis.

We recognise that the wider mental health services such as CAMHS are stretched and that there can be long waits when referred to for support, but incorporating MHFA in your setting will help you identify a young person struggling in the early stages of mental illness and therefore, the young person will hopefully not progress into a crisis and alleviate some pressure from our mental health services.

If you’re interested in our Youth Mental Health First Aid training, contact us now and together we can improve the mental health of your students and help them reach their maximum potential at school.