We are all aware of the old saying ‘prevention is better than cure’. If we feel we are coming down with a cold, or have the start of a headache, we will intervene early to hopefully prevent it.
Within every school in the UK there is a qualified first aider to hand, in case of physical illness or injury. There is a preventative measure in place should young people need physical first aid help during their time in the learning environment. Their wellbeing and safety is very much considered in this regard. There are effective interventions and systems in place that can be utilised quickly and easily.
Although there have been some positive changes in recent years, when it comes to mental health, this is more often than not ignored. It is the invisible illness with so much uncertainty and negativity still surrounding it.
How often do we come across mental health first aiders in schools?
Unfortunately, not very often at all.
Although we would like to have the same preventative measures applied to mental health as we have in place for physical health, this frustratingly is not the case.
From a recent article from Dr David A Lee, Lead Consultant Clinical Psychologist, discussing the importance of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) in schools, states;
‘It is fundamental that early warning signs of mental health are detected at an early rate in children and adolescents so that prompt action can be taken to ensure helpful support and appropriate treatment. Unfortunately, this is not our reality at present’
This really does bring to the forefront that early intervention is what is needed. We need to be proactive, not reactive.
It is stated within the same article that;
‘5% of adolescents suffer from depression at any one time and 20% will experience depressive symptoms by the time they enter childhood. To add to this, approximately 10-15% of children or adolescents have one or more diagnosable anxiety disorder.’
It is also discussed that eating disorders are on the increase, particularly in young females.
Why as a society are we not more concerned about the rise of mental health issues in our young people?
Emotional wellbeing should be at the forefront when supporting young people. Mental health training should be provided for frontline workers supporting and working with children and adolescents.
Anyone can be trained in mental health and anyone can respond to those in distress.
Why should we let individuals get to such high levels of distress, before we step in, when we all know, and likely use that famous saying ‘prevention is better that cure’
By having trained staff within each and every school, caregivers can detect warning signs of possible mental ill health and ensure that early intervention is implemented. This can be in the form of signposting, liaising with specialists in the field, seeking appropriate professional help, such as psychological treatments, or referring on to a safeguarding lead or pastoral support. While doing so, it is vital we work collaboratively with the individual and empower them to make their own decisions about their needs and wants.
Finally, Dr David Lee goes onto state;
‘While MHFA is still very much in its infancy as a concept, it offers a unique solution to the needs of schools and colleges in terms of cultivating pupil wellbeing and positive mental health, and to the early recognition of mental health problems’
If you have any training needs surrounding mental health, Harmless can provide bespoke CPD accredited training packages as well as the MHFA 2 day programme
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Phone: 0115 934 8446