News story

New research reveals the impact of Youth Mental Health First Aid training for school staff

New research published on the eve of World Mental Health Day has revealed the impact of Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training on secondary school staff throughout England. The study, conducted by a team of researchers from University College London (UCL), involved over 1,000 school staff and evidences a significant increase in confidence in knowledge, skills and awareness to support a young person struggling with their mental health.

Prior to undertaking Youth MHFA training, only 30% of staff reported feeling knowledgeable, skilled and aware to support a young person experiencing mental ill health. After acquiring Youth MHFA skills, 59% of staff said they felt highly knowledgeable, aware and confident to support a young person – 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 relative 190% increase.

Caroline Hounsell, Director of Communities and Content Development, Mental Health First Aid England, commented:

‘Schools routinely provide physical first aid and reassurance if a child falls ill or is injured – and there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be the case if they are struggling with their mental health. Today’s report findings demonstrate that skilling school staff in Mental Health First Aid is having a really positive impact on their confidence around interacting with students.

‘Whilst this programme is the first step in addressing the mental health training gap in schools, we hope to build on its success by continuing to give access to these skills to school staff across England.’

The research was commissioned to evaluate the first year of the Youth MHFA in Schools programme, 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, qualifying them as Youth MHFA Champions – someone who is skilled in understanding how to spot the signs and symptoms of mental health issues in young people and who has the confidence to guide a young person to a place of support. So far in year two of the programme, a further 929 staff have received the training.

Research by The Teacher’s Union NASUWT last year revealed that although 98% of teachers have contact with pupils who they believe are experiencing mental health issues, 46% report never having received any training on youth mental health, highlighting a clear point of need. This also adds to a wider recognition of the need to improve mental health provision in schools, with an estimated one in ten children experiencing a mental health issue at any one time.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan said:

‘It’s so important children get timely support to help them tackle any mental health issues they may be experiencing. We know first-hand, from delivering school programmes like PATHS, where children learn to talk about their feelings, that these lessons can make a huge difference in reducing the stigma around mental health and empower them to seek help.

‘We have also long argued that the UK is sleepwalking into an ever-deepening crisis in children’s mental health unless action is taken. This is why we wholeheartedly welcome the research by Mental Health First Aid England and University College London showing the positive impact of Mental Health First Aid training in secondary schools. It’s vital these skills are given to school staff across the country so they can intervene early and help children get the support they need.’

Make sure you check back with My Family, Our Needs tomorrow on World Mental Health Day  to see our round-up of the fantastic resources MHFA have released for parents, teachers and practitioners to help support their young person with their mental health. There will also be some self-care tips for young people themselves that they can take away.



Click here to sign up for our monthly newsletter