Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England's education network gathered today at Church House in Westminster to celebrate the impact of Youth Mental Health First Aid training at a special event, 'Evidencing the Impact: Skilling Up Schools in Mental Health'. 

Hosted by the MHFA England Communities Team, the event marked the launch of a new evaluation of the first year of the Youth MHFA in Schools programme conducted by researchers from University College London's Institute of Education. Guest speakers from across the education community shared their thoughts on the success of the programme and the value of MHFA training in schools, before the results of the evaluation were presented. The event also included a panel discussion and a workshop focused on the student voice. 

The Youth MHFA in Schools programme is a nationwide initiative funded by the Department of Health and Social Care, which aims to train a member of staff in every state secondary school in the country in mental health awareness by 2020. In the first year of the programme over 1,200 school staff participated in a Youth MHFA One Day course and a further 929 staff have received the training in year two.

After an opening welcome from MHFA England's youth lead, Caroline Hounsell, the day began with mental health campaigner and Youth MHFA instructor Natasha Devon offering 'Three Simple Changes Schools can Make to Improve Mental Health'. Noelle Doona, Assistant Head Teacher, Hendon School, along with several students from the school, then shared their 'Journal of Mental Health Awareness'. As a leader in one of the first schools to take part in the programme, Noelle has since gone on to qualify as a Youth MHFA instructor in a bid to train further staff in support of a 'whole school' approach to mental health.

The evaluation of the programme, conducted by a team of researchers from UCL, involved over 1,000 school staff and demonstrates a significant increase in confidence in knowledge, skills and awareness to support a young person struggling with their mental health. Dr Sveta Mayer and Dr. Guy Roberts-Holmes, UCL Institute of Education presented the research, which found:

  • Prior to Youth MHFA training, only 30% of staff felt confident to support a young person experiencing mental ill health.
  • On term after training in Youth MHFA skills, 59% of staff said they felt highly knowledgeable and confident to support a young person’s mental health. 
  • This increased to 87% up to three terms later, highlighting a sustained improvement as staff put their skills into practice and had time to reflect on their training – this represents a near three-fold increase, or a 190% relatvie increase.


Principle Investigator Dr. Robert-Holmes commented:

“The year one national evaluation has demonstrated that the Youth MHFA Schools One Day Training Programme has raised school staff knowledge, awareness and practical support they can give to support young people's positive Mental Health. The evaluation demonstrates that the training enables school staff to learn about the complexities of young people’s mental health and gives the MHFA Champions practical advice around listening to, supporting and signposting young people who may need help.

The evaluation has shown that Youth MHFA Champions are able to make sense of their training within their own local contexts and in dialogue with young people are able to provide a range of creative possibilities and alternatives for Mental Health support within their schools." 

The day was rounded off with a panel discussion, featuring several of the speakers and students from Hendon School, and a creative workshop led by young people tackling the question: "How can we use technology to benefit young people's mental health?"

An infographic with further information on the programme can be found here (PDF download) and you can find out more about Youth MHFA training here.

The UCL report is available to read now: