Thursday 22nd June saw the launch of the Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) in Schools programme in Suffolk, one of the first course deliveries of our nationwide initiative to train secondary schools staff as Youth MHFA Champions. To find out a bit more about the course and the programme, Times Educational Supplement journalist, Adi Bloom, joined us for the day at Ormiston Endeavour Academy in Ipswich.


Published last week, Adi’s piece gives some great insights into the course and MHFA England National Trainer and Youth MHFA instructor Anita Malster’s approach.

Explaining her ideas on starting conversations around mental health for example, Anita comments, “Part of the role of a mental health champion is being able to open up those conversations and listen effectively. A lot of the time, young people are looking for that. It’s about being seen, being heard, and having your emotions acknowledged. So we’re teaching people to listen, in a non-judgemental way. That’s the fundamental thing that comes out of this course: the importance of opening up a conversation and listening to what young people have to say. For a lot of young people, being listened to can be enormously helpful.”

Adi details some of the activities on the course designed to address stigmatising language used around mental health and to illustrate the impact of stress on vulnerable young people and also takes the opportunity to get some of the school staff’s thoughts on the training. Graham Tait, head of year in the sixth form at Farlingaye High School, comments, “So many students have

mental health issues. And we’re at the front line. There’s no question that more and more students are finding it difficult to deal with anxiety and stress, because there’s lots of pressure on them all. We’re not counsellors; we’re not being trained as counsellors. But we do provide counsel to our students. We want staff to be able to know how to deal with what’s presented by young people.”

Adi goes on to detail discussions with Anita on the scope of MHFA training saying, ‘Anita acknowledges that mental health first aid is not a panacea. Still, she hopes that its impact will be felt far beyond the classroom in which the group is currently sitting.’ Anita then comments, “Hopefully, once one teacher has been on the course, they will recognise the benefits of having a whole-school strategy and a whole school approach. This is the first step, really; it’s the first point on the ladder of training people.”

Lead of the Youth MHFA in Schools programme and MHFA England Director, Caroline Hounsell, is also quoted saying, “Schools already have safeguarding policies. But mental health first aid is about crisis response. It’s about first response. We’re not training people to be therapists or psychiatrists – we’re giving them the skills to respond in a crisis. If teachers are able to intervene and take appropriate action when a young person is in emotional distress, they can stop it from getting worse. And that can aid recovery in the long term.”

Click here to find out more about the Youth MHFA in Schools programme and here to subscribe to TES.