By Marielle Joy Opana
UK Prime Minister Theresa May targets Mental Health First Aid Training for all secondary teachers by the year 2020 to help them identify and respond to their pupils’ underlying mental health problems at early age.
In a recent study, around one in 10 children are assumed diagnosed with mental health disorder.
“Children and young people today are facing a huge range of pressures, from exam stress to online bullying, which inevitably take a toll on their mental health. Many of these pressures become particularly intense during secondary school…” Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, said in a statement.
Young Minds is UK’s leading charity whose concern is the wellbeing and mental health of the youth.
Early symptoms of mental health conditions show at an early age, making this more crucial to detect it and to provide correct supervision among their parents, guardians and especially teachers.
“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,” said Caroline Hounsell, MHFA England Director and lead of the Youth MHFA in Schools program.
Despite the urgency of this matter, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) discovered that nearly all the teachers, or 98% of them, encountered pupils who have mental health issues.
However, only 46% of teachers were reported to have received training on children’s mental health management.
This is why the government has pledged the said mental health training.
“When I stood on the steps of Downing Street on my first day as Prime Minister, I said that the disparity in mental health services was one of the burning injustices our country faces. Since then we have announced real progress in tackling this unfairness, and this training will make a real difference to children’s lives by ensuring they have access to sensitive and swift support,” Prime Minister May said in a statement.
The government funded the program with £200,000 on its first year, which was initiated by the social enterprise Mental Health First Aid.
The program will begin with 1,000 staff and extend two to three years to cover all secondary schools in England.
Everyone will receive practical advice in handling mental issues of children such as depression and anxiety, suicide and psychosis, self-harm, and eating disorders.
“Tackling poor mental health is a huge challenge, and we will keep our promises and meet that challenge with the comprehensive cross-society response that is required,” May added.
The program also targets every participant to become a Youth Mental Health First Aid Champion for extensive sharing of their knowledge and understanding in mental health across the schools and wider communities.
The Mental Health First Aid training for the secondary teachers was highly commended with different personalities in the academe and government sectors involved.
“This training is a move in the right direction and will help give staff the opportunity to gain confidence and understand mental health better. We hope it will encourage more leadership teams to put student well-being at the heart of their school which will benefit both students and schools alike,” Brennan said.
Hounsell also said: “We are really pleased to be involved in this government-backed programme and supporting our instructors to deliver this important schools-focused training.”
Meanwhile, John Mckee, a Head Teacher in Patcham High School, Brington, was delighted to learn that the mentioned middle school will be one of the first schools in the country to be part of the Youth MHFA in Schools program.
Education Secretary Justine Greening also appreciates this act saying, “This new training will give teachers more confidence in tackling mental health issues and build on the fantastic support we know they already give their pupils. It’s great that so many schools are taking part and I’d encourage others to follow their lead.”
Even the Secretary for Health, Jeremy Hunt, shows support for the MHFA program for the secondary teachers. “We know that identifying symptoms of mental illness in their early stages can help put young people on the road to recovery. This initiative will mean more children can get the fast and sensitive support they need to stay well, and help build a society with far better understanding of mental ill health.”