On 9 January 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May spoke to the nation about how the government is planning to transform mental health support in this country. In her speech she said:
“For too long mental illness has been something of a hidden injustice in our country, shrouded in a completely unacceptable stigma and dangerously disregarded as a secondary issue to physical health. Yet left unaddressed, it destroys lives, it separates people from each other and deepens the divisions within our society. Changing this goes right to the heart of our humanity; to the heart of the kind of country we are, the values we share, the attitudes we hold and our determination to come together and support each other.
“I want us to employ the power of government as a force for good to transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society, and at every stage of life.
“What I am announcing are the first steps in our plan to transform the way we deal with mental illness in this country at every stage of a person’s life: not in our hospitals, but in our classrooms, at work and in our communities.
“This starts with ensuring that children and young people get the help and support they need and deserve – because we know that mental illness too often starts in childhood and that when left untreated, can blight lives, and become entrenched.
“New support for schools with every secondary school in the country to be offered mental health first aid training and new trials to look at how to strengthen the links between schools and local NHS mental health staff. There will also be a major thematic review of children and adolescent mental health services across the country, led by the Care Quality Commission, to identify what is working and what it not and a new Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health to set out plans to transform services in schools, universities and for families.“
MHFA England, along with many of its supporters and networks, has been tirelessly campaigning and advocating for there to be a Mental Health First Aider in every school and today all that effort has resulted in a positive outcome, for everyone but most importantly our young people.
Poppy Jaman, CEO for MHFA England said in response to the Prime Minister’s speech:
“We are delighted by the Prime Minister’s commitment that secondary schools across the country will have at least one member of staff trained as a Mental Health First Aider. Mental ill health in young people is a growing health concern, with half of all lifetime cases of mental health issues starting by the age of 14. This move from the Prime Minister is a welcome step towards bringing mental health on a par with physical health, and we are particularly pleased to hear that the Department for Health will be putting adequate resource in supporting this commitment.
“The training offered through Mental Health First Aid will provide teachers and frontline professionals working with young people the skills and confidence to spot common signs and triggers of mental health issues, as well as the knowledge and confidence on how to help. There are already 25,000 people in England trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid and we very much welcome the commitment by government to increase the number of people skilled to support a young person who might be experiencing a mental health issue.
“Currently, only around a quarter of people who need treatment for mental ill health receive it: with access to a Mental Health First Aider we can provide early intervention in guiding a young person to the support they need.”
In the coming months, MHFA England will work alongside the government, schools and the MHFA instructor community to ensure that this commitment to train a Youth MHFAider in every secondary school is met.
Full speech here