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Government announces mental health training for teachers

Every secondary school teacher will be offered mental health training by 2020, the government has confirmed.

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The training, which was first mooted by the Prime Minister in January, will be delivered by the social enterprise organisation Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England. Backed by £200,000 in government funding during the first year, Mental Health First Aid will deliver the training to 1,000 staff. In the following years 2 and 3, this will be extended to cover every secondary school in England.

Teachers on the course will receive practical advice on how to deal with issues such as depression and anxiety, suicide and psychosis, self-harm, and eating disorders. Participants in the training programme will be invited to become a Youth Mental Health First Aid Champion, and will help to share their knowledge and understanding of mental health across the school and wider community.

It is hoped that the increased awareness around mental health will mean more young people will get fast and appropriate support for emerging mental health problems.

Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, said: “Teachers provide outstanding pastoral care and support for their pupils, but many have said that they would appreciate more formal training on how to understand and respond to acute mental distress.

“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,” he added.

Education Secretary Justine Greening added that the 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”.

Around one in 10 children are believed to have a diagnosable mental health disorder, with half of all mental health conditions starting before the age of 14.

National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) research found that 98% of teachers had come into contact with pupils who were experiencing mental health issues, but only 46% reported receiving training on children’s mental health.

Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, said: “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 so it is important and welcome that mental health first aid training will be available for secondary schools.

“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 wellbeing at the heart of their school which will benefit both students and schools alike.

“Young people need to learn about wellbeing and resilience from a young age, so when they leave school they are equipped to deal with problems and have the confidence to seek help. It is vital that this work is part of a whole-school approach to wellbeing, and that mental health is made a priority across the education system,” concluded Ms Brennan.

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