"Love of

Blessed William Howard hosts first Mental Health First Aid Course in Region


BWH staff were amongst some of the very first to receive skills based training as part of the Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) in Schools programme. This follows a commitment made by Prime Minister Theresa May in January to provide Youth MHFA training to at least one member of staff in every state secondary school in the country over the next three years.

Blessed William Howard Catholic High School, part of Holy Trinity Catholic Multi Academy Company, in Stafford hosted a Youth MHFA One Day course for a dozen staff from several different schools in the nearby region. These staff learned how to provide mental health support to students on a first aid basis in order to facilitate early intervention and recovery – first aid is the help given to an ill or injured person before medical treatment can be obtained. Once fully trained, these staff will take on roles as Youth MHFA Champions in their respective schools. Training for these staff is particularly timely given the increased stress students may experience during the summer exam season.

 The Youth MHFA in Schools programme is being delivered by Community Interest Company MHFA England and is funded by the Department of Health, which has provided £200,000 to support the initiative. This year around 1,000 secondary school staff across England will be trained and overall, the government has committed to fund over 3,000 course places over three years, so that by 2020 at least one person in every state secondary school in England has MHFA skills.

 Caroline Hounsell, MHFA England Director and lead of the Youth MHFA in Schools programme, commented, “Mental ill health in young people is a growing health concern, with half of all lifetime cases of mental health issues starting by the age of 14. It’s therefore vital that we put the right measures in place to ensure that young people get the help they need and at the earliest possible stage. We are really pleased to be involved in this government-backed programme and supporting our instructors to deliver this important schools-focused training. Ultimately we believe that Youth MHFA should form part of initial teacher training so that all teaching staff start their career with these essential skills and school support staff are trained when in post.”

 A recent survey by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) found that 98% of teachers had come into contact with pupils who were experiencing mental health issues, however only 46% reported receiving training on children’s mental health. The Youth MHFA in Schools programme aims to address this gap by creating Youth MHFA Champions in every state secondary school in England, so that staff are skilled to spot the common signs of mental health issues and guide a young person experiencing a mental health issue to the support they may need.

 Mark Millinchip, Assistant Headteacher and Safeguarding Officer at Blessed William Howard Catholic High School commented, “We are delighted to be one of the first schools in the country to be involved in the Youth MHFA in Schools programme. Around one in 10 children have a diagnosable mental health issue – roughly three children in every classroom – so upskilling frontline school staff to be able to support these children is crucially important. Mental Health First Aid is a robust evidence-based training that will not only increase the mental health literacy of school staff taking this course, but will help them turn this awareness into action by teaching them skills to support young people in emotional distress. In undertaking this training and ensuring we have a Youth Mental Health First Aid Champion among our staff, we hope to enhance our overall approach to promoting staff and student wellbeing, as well as giving pupils access to a staff member with Mental Health First Aid skills.”

Andy Flockton, Youth MHFA One Day instructor, commented, “We know that many school staff in Staffordshire are already facing situations where they are required to support young people with mental health issues. Many will spend time and energy worrying about how best to do so, adding to the pressures of their day-to-day role. This training will help individuals to develop the confidence, skills and knowledge to support young people in this respect, going some way to addressing the adverse effects such concerns can have on staff wellbeing. By the same token, this course also educates delegates on the importance of personal wellbeing, how to look after their own mental health, and how to support their peers to do the same. In this sense, training school staff in Mental Health First Aid has the potential to improve the wellbeing not just of the individual trained, but of other staff in the school as well.”

To find out more about MHFA England the Youth MHFA in Schools programme visit: mhfaengland.org/mhfa-centre/schools-programme.