Interest in SEMH in schools is growing by the day and Mental Health First Aid Youth is the latest government scheme designed to put a “champion” in every school. But what does it actually look like? Having just completed it, I feel obliged to blog my review.

Mental Health First Aid Youth is a two day course priced at around £300 (incredible value for a two day course of this specialism) and provided by Mental Health First Aid England. This course is the more in depth “sibling” of the to-be-announced schools and colleges MHFA course the government is due to fund later this year onwards. However much of the content is similar and so this hopefully should provide you with a good insight as to what to expect.

The course is split into 4 sections covering Mental Health, Depression and Anxiety, Suicide and Psychosis and Self Harm and Eating Disorders. Each topic is handled with great care and expertise from the qualified trainers (each of whom have completed the course and done a great deal of pedagogical work over the course of a year) and the course is delivered very much in a “facilitator” model.

This was something that particularly impressed me – I have attended and delivered many training courses in mental health but none have been so practical and activity driven as the Mental Health First Aid Youth course. Opportunity for group work was great and the use of video case studies was also very helpful. We were constantly using the information we were given and encouraged to explore our own ideas too.

Throughout the 2 day course there are two main themes – the Mental Health First Aid Youth system for dealing with a concern and the case studies we created at the start of the process. Without divulging the entirety of the course the Youth MHFA system shows you how to deal with a concern right from the initial contact with a person with a mental health concern right through to the aftercare when a suitable referral is made. It is very thorough and leaves the delegate with a clear idea of how to proceed in their organisation. I would recommend delegates target further training in each stage of the process (e.g. listening skills) to help to improve the overall experience for the young person but knowing the process is vital to starting the ball rolling in any given setting.

The second theme of the course centres on the 4 young people “created” during the early stages of the course. These children are designed to represent people at different stages of the mental health continuum and are referred to throughout. This helps the environment from becoming a therapeutic one based on one persons experiences. It also gives an anonymous case study to work from. The young people come alive in the discussions and the delegates will feel emotionally connected to them at the end!

The Mental Health First Aid Youth qualification is a fantastic training course for teachers, education staff and anyone else who works with a young person in a supportive setting. It is not training to diagnose or counsel but it offers the skills and resources to react on the front line to mental health concerns. Delegates will be able to identify issues and respond appropriately, making professional referrals and encouraging the person to access self help in the meantime.

I believe every school should have a qualified Mental Health First Aider (Youth) within their organisation in order to provide a first response to the growing numbers of students presenting with mental health concerns. It is a positive approach focusing on recovery and can be embedded in any organisation in the same way physical First Aid has become a standard.

This course was attended by Dan Hallsworth (site owner and now Mental Health First Aid Youth Trainer!) in early June in London with two fantastically qualifed and outstanding trainers Andy and Dawn.