Around one in ten children have a diagnosable mental health issue – roughly three children in every classroom. But just one in four of these children gets access to the treatment and care they need (Young Minds, 2017).

Evidence shows that the earlier a mental health issue is identified and treated, the quicker and more positive the recovery process is likely to be. Staff trained in Youth MHFA can offer first aid support through non-judgemental listening and guidance, acting as a point of contact for a young person who is experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress. Their role could range from having an initial conversation through to guiding a young person to access professional support. 

In this way, the programme is one part of ensuring young people are better able to get the support they need when experiencing mental health issues as early as possible.


School staff report that they are already spending time and energy trying to do the right thing for young people with mental health issues or whose behaviour they are concerned about. Many take these concerns home with them. We hope to empower them by giving them tools and resources to deal with these situations effectively.

By equipping staff with the knowledge, skills and confidence to assist young people on a first aid basis, we hope to reduce the pressures that come with managing these situations without adequate training. 

MHFA courses also provide information on ways to look after your own mental health or support others to do the same. In this way, training school staff in MHFA has the potential to improve the wellbeing not just of the individual trained but of other staff in the school as well. 

Teachers can access a range of resources to support their own wellbeing here.

Youth Mental Health First Aiders have:

  • An in depth understanding of young people’s mental health and factors that affect wellbeing

  • Practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues

  • Confidence to reassure and support a young person in distress

  • Enhanced interpersonal skills such as non-judgemental listening

  • Knowledge to help a young person recover their health by guiding them to further support – whether that’s through self-help sites, their place of learning, the NHS, or a mix – engaging with parents, carers and external agencies where appropriate

  • Ability to support a young person with a long term mental health issue or disability to thrive

  • Tools to look after their own mental wellbeing

To see what the course covers, visit the Youth MHFA Two Day course page.

Everyone who attends the course gets a manual and workbook to keep and refer to, supporting them in their role as a dedicated Youth Mental Health First Aider.

A Youth Mental Health First Aider can act as a point of contact for a young person who may be experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress. Their role could range from having an initial conversation, offering first aid support through non-judgemental listening, through to guiding a young person to access professional support.

They also have the opportunity to take on a role as a mental health advocate within their school to encourage a ‘whole school’ approach to wellbeing. Evidence shows the only effective long-term way to improve mental health is to adopt a whole organisation approach, where all parts of the school community work together in their commitment to wellbeing.

In the short-term this programme aims to train at least one member of staff in every school in London. Beyond 2021, the 100 Youth MHFA instructors provided by the programme can continue to deliver courses throughout the community.

The government’s national Youth MHFA in Schools programme, alongside training being delivered by MHFA England’s wider network of instructors, is also providing more and more school staff with access to this important training. 

In the future our goal is for MHFA to be part of initial teacher training so that every teacher feels confident in spotting the signs of mental ill health in their pupils.


Since it was first developed in 2000, MHFA training has been extensively evaluated through independent research and shown to have positive outcomes in improving attitudes, skills and confidence around mental health. Details of studies into MHFA England training can be found on our Research and evaluation page. For research into international MHFA programmes, visit All MHFA courses are written by mental health professionals drawing upon the current evidence base in the field of psychology, with input from service users and people with lived experience of mental ill health. The self-help elements of MHFA courses also come from evidence-based sources, such as the New Economic Foundation’s Five Ways to Wellbeing. 

Researchers from University College London evaluated the first year of the national Youth MHFA in Schools programme in a study involving over 1,000 school staff. Staff reported around a three-fold (190%) increase in confidence in knowledge, skills and awareness to support a young person struggling with their mental health. In another independent evaluation of Youth MHFA training in 2013, participants reported a 60% increase in confidence and knowledge in their ability to help and support young people with mental health issues. The WISE Project run by the University of Bristol is currently evaluating the effect of MHFA training on both student and staff wellbeing. Pilot results show that after the training, staff had improved mental health knowledge, confidence, less stigmatising attitudes, and provided examples of successful peer support among teachers. The London schools programme will be evaluated in year one and results will be published soon after.

Youth MHFA courses do not teach people to be therapists, counsellors or psychiatrists, and do not teach people how to diagnose mental health conditions. The role of someone trained in Youth MHFA is to act as a point of contact and reassurance for a young person who may be experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress. This could range from having an initial conversation, to signposting the young person to appropriate self-help resources, to guiding them to access professional supports.

The Youth MHFA Instructor Training programme is the qualification for teaching Youth MHFA Two Day courses. Accredited by the Royal Society for Public Health, our instructor training involves seven days of face-to-face training, usually spread out over six weeks. For more details, please visit our Instructor Training pages

As part of the London schools programme we are providing 100 funded places on the Youth MHFA Instructor Training programme to people who will go on to deliver the Youth MHFA Two Day courses across London schools. We will be recruiting Youth MHFA instructors from a range of organisations working with young people across the communities (schools, faith, voluntary, statutory and primary care).

If you are interested in signing up to a funded place on the Instructor Training programme via the London schools programme, please contact


In the same way that physical first aid trainers are not necessarily medical doctors or nurses, our MHFA instructors are not necessarily mental health professionals. Our instructors share a common goal to raise awareness, tackle stigma and ensure those experiencing mental health issues can be effectively signposted to the appropriate support.

At present, only instructors trained as part of this programme will be able to deliver the funded courses. We are confident that this programme will raise the profile of Youth MHFA and drive wider interest and demand for training in organisations across the capital, thereby benefiting the whole community of London-based Youth MHFA instructors in the long-term.

There are two ways to get involved:

  • If you are interested in qualifying as an instructor who will deliver the Youth MHFA courses across London schools, please contact See our Instructor Training programme for more information on what your training would involve. We will be recruiting Youth MHFA instructors from a range of organisations that work with young people across the communities (schools, faith, voluntary, statutory and primary care).

  • Schools who wish to access their free place on a Youth MHFA Two Day course through this funded programme should contact

This programme is open to all state-funded schools within London, including state-funded primary, secondary, further education colleges and special educational needs schools.

The programme is a collaboration between Thrive LDN and Mental Health First Aid England, funded through the Mayor of London’s Young Londoners Fund scale-up activity to give London school staff access to Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training. The programme is also supported by Healthy London Partnership.  

The partnership continues the Mayor’s drive to help and support children and young people to fulfil their potential, with a particular focus on improving the mental health and wellbeing of all young Londoners.

Thrive LDN, through its commitment to bring together health and care leaders, residents, businesses and community and voluntary organisations to improve mental health and wellbeing in the capital, is facilitating the programme management and communications work of the programme.

Thrive LDN is supported by the Mayor of London and led by the London Health Board, in partnership with Greater London Authority, Healthy London Partnership, NHS England (London Region), Public Health England (London Region) and London Councils. 

Healthy London Partnership (HLP) was formed in April 2015. HLP hosts the Thrive LDN programme team. HLP aims to make London the healthiest global city in the world by working with our partners for Londoners to improve health and care, so everyone can live healthier lives. HLP works across health and social care, and with the Greater London Authority, Public Health England, NHS England, London’s councils, clinical commissioning groups, and Health Education England.


For more information, please get in touch with Thrive LDN on