Tough, often taboo topics to discuss like depression, anxiety and self-harm were tackled at a recent Mental Health First Aid Training course held at Brightside Primary School in Billericay.
A group of 8 local primary and secondary school staff were guided through recognising signs and symptoms of poor mental health in pupils by youth mental health first aid trainer Jeff Porter. The group also learned how to help initially with first aid and attendees were provided with a useful list of referral contacts.
Sponsored by Bennetts Funerals, the one-day course was organised in response to an increased number of young people taking their own lives.
Pupil support worker Shirley Sullivan at Brightside Primary School attended the training. She said: “The course has given us lots of good information and contacts that we can access if we need them for the children. It’s nice sharing with others what’s happening in their schools and how we can help children.
“We find here it’s general growing up problems, friendship and family problems like losing a loved nanny or granddad. We try to give them an extra bit of loving care at a crisis time of their life.”
A significant part of the course was dedicated to the process of recovering from mental health issues.
“We see on the news that there’s a mental health crisis and children and young people are suffering. I feel if we can get people to recognise they have mental health issues, reduce the stigma and discrimination and get them the help they need, earlier, then hopefully that will lead to a better adult life for them.
“Mental health first aid is about empowering people to approach a young person they feel is experiencing a mental health issue like psychosis, depression, anxiety, self-harming, eating disorders. It’s about recognising that and signposting them to appropriate professional help as early as possible to promote quicker recovery,” said Jeff Porter independent trainer with Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA).
MHFA offers courses for anyone who works or lives with young people aged 8 – 18, or supports them. MHFA’s ultimate aim is to save lives by getting first aid assistance to young people, preferably at an early stage, then guiding them to the support they need to prevent issues developing into potentially life-threatening crises.
Luke Bulpett Headteacher at Brightside Primary School said: “More work needs to be done in primary schools to support mental health and other issues so that it’s not such a big jump when they arrive at secondary schools.”
Course attendees came from secondary schools Mayflower High and The Billericay School and five Billericay primary schools: Downham Church of England VC, Sunnymede, South Green Junior, St Peter’s Catholic and Brightside.