Mental Health First Aid and Resilient Therapy training in Hastings
By Claire Stubbs, Boingboing trainer
The Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training was originally developed at The Centre for Mental Health Research at The Australian National University in Canberra. The English adaptation was funded and adapted by MHFA England Community Interest Company as part of a national approach to improving awareness of emotional and mental health issues experienced by young people in England.
The MHFA course is now being rolled out to schools in Hastings as part of the opportunities fund, to raise awareness and confidence in teachers and schools with regards to mental health. As Boingboing are also supporting the opportunities fund work, I was fortunate enough to attend the MHFA training to understand what the schools would be learning, to network with schools in advance of working with them next year, and also to see where our Resilient Therapy (RT) training needed to compliment and bridge the gap in knowledge.
For teachers and school staff juggling a range of responsibilities, and responding to an array of needs within their school community, MHFA offers an accessible and palpable introduction to mental health. As it says on the tin, MHFA equips you with the capacity and confidence to respond like a first aider to a mental health difficulty, before enlisting further support and help appropriate to the young person’s needs.
Across the two days, and with a comprehensive guide to take home, the course ranges from understanding what mental health is, and the prevalence of mental health difficulties, to tricky issues including self-harm, suicide, psychosis, personality disorders and relevant contributors such as social media and cyberbullying. Participants are faced with understanding and learning about difficult issues young people and their families may face, in a safe and supportive environment with facilitators who have diverse backgrounds that enrich the learning space.
So how does RT compliment MHFA, and what will your school gain from accessing our training and consultation support as part of The Hastings Offer?
Firstly, let’s look at supporting mental health on an individual level. The MHFA provides you with the process “ALGEE”: Approach the young person, assess and assist with any crisis; Listen and communicate non-judgementally; Give support and information; Encourage the young person to get appropriate professional help; and lastly, Encourage other supports. Great! And this can be applied to every mental health difficulty. When looking at individual mental health difficulties, your RT training will then support you to understand the specifics relating to each mental health difficulty, and how you can (using the skills you have already) take things one step further and offer tailored support. For example, a young person who is struggling with symptoms relating to bulimia will have different needs and require a different response to the young person experiencing anorexia. Our twilight sessions that focus on these different presentations will support you to understand these needs and how to personalise the support you offer within your school.
Furthermore, at Boingboing we are passionate about a whole school approach. It’s fantastic that schools have mental health first aiders, yet the danger is that it falls on them to do all the mental health work. When a child has complex or challenging needs that require specialist support, as just described, it is likely that there will be a long wait for that support, and that the child will remain in school for the majority of the rest of the time, apart from a few hours a month when they are receiving this support. It is therefore important that the whole system is equipped and organised to offer a resilience-building environment for the child, their family and the staff who come into contact with them on a daily basis.
So, we will be focusing on resilience, and not mental health, so how is it different? Mental health is a continuum between good mental health and mental illness. We are all on this continuum somewhere, depending on who we are as people, where we are living, and what happens to us in life. A clear focus on resilience is important because it can help us to move more quickly and effectively towards the good mental health end of the spectrum, when things are tough.
I was curious about the wellbeing of the teachers and school staff once they had gone back into their environments after their two day training, and the MHFA course encouraged a self-care exercise after the first day, which was a tough session! If you feel it’s relevant to your school community, and we are passionate about it at Boingboing, we can tailor our training to ensure it focuses and supports the wellbeing of ALL of your school staff. We have a practitioner resilience programme that has taken concepts and strategies from the evidence base and helps staff understand what poses a risk to their resilience at school, and a toolkit of mechanisms to support them to mitigate these risks.
The consultation support is informed by our Academic Resilience Approach. We will explore with you where your school is currently in terms of the framework and where you want to get to. Gabrielle Rowles will help you think through practical approaches that can support pupils to do better than expected, how to support and identify those pupils who might be falling through the net, ideas to support a whole school approach, and “quick wins” that can be implemented immediately. Gabrielle will also support you to identify any further training needs that are important as part of your overall action plan.
So, to conclude, the MHFA offers a supportive and transparent platform upon which our RT training and consultation can build. Together, we are creating communities of support for families most in need and this cannot be underestimated.
If you do have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact us, our coordinator Anne Rathbone will be happy to answer any questions and to work with you to book in your training and consultation.
The Resilience Framework is a handy table that summarises ‘what works’ when supporting children and young people’s resilience according to the Resilience Research base. The Resilience Framework forms a cornerstone of our research and practice. On this page we have pulled together lots of useful links so you can find out all about the Resilience Framework.
The Resilient Minds Toolkits are co-produced guides written by young people and parents/carers to support young people’s resilience and mental health. We have co-produced guides for both a Blackpool context and a national context. Find out more here.
This page presents a selection of our submissions of evidence with a focus on those which have considered accessibility.