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Youth Mental Health First Aid programme: what you need to know

The training, delivered by community interest company Mental Health First Aid England, aims to teach staff how to spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and provide help on a first aid basis.

We know that staff up and down the country are providing extraordinary pastoral care and support for their pupils, and many are well-practised at handling the sensitivities and hardships that arise during childhood and adolescence – through this training, we hope to give staff the further confidence and practical tips to address mental health issues in young people that staff have asked for.

Evaluations of Mental Health First Aid training have shown positive results, and Mental Health First Aid England provides examples of case studies of schools which have reported positive results following the training.

or more information, visit the MHFA's website where you can find details of how to access a place on the schools programme. Further FAQs are below. 


What is MHFA/Youth MHFA/the course about?

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an internationally recognised training course, designed to teach people how to spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and provide help on a first aid basis. Youth MHFA is a version of this course tailored towards supporting young people experiencing a mental health issue.

The Youth MHFA One Day course that school staff are undertaking as part of the Youth MHFA in Schools programme has been designed specifically with schools and colleges in mind and includes a mix of presentations, group discussions and workshop activities. Topics covered include:

  • An introduction to mental health
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Suicide and psychosis
  • Self-harm and eating disorders


The core skills the course teaches are how to listen non-judgementally, be sensitive to signs and triggers of mental ill-health and to respect a young person's unique frame of reference.

What are the aims of Youth MHFA?

Youth MFHA aims to:

  • Preserve life where a young person may be a danger to themselves or others
  • Intervene to prevent the emotional or mental health issue developing into a more serious state
  • Provide comfort to a young person experiencing a mental health issue
  • Empower a young person to access appropriate professional help
  • Promote the recovery of good mental health
  • Raise awareness of mental health issues in the community
  • Reduce stigma and discrimination


What is the Youth MHFA in Schools programme?

In January 2017 Prime Minister Theresa May committed to provide Youth MHFA training to at least one member of staff in every state secondary school in the country over the next three years. Following this announcement, the Youth MHFA in Schools programme was launched in April 2017. The programme is funded by the Department of Health and is run by organisation, MHFA England, a community interest company (CIC).

In the first year of the programme 100 Youth MHFA One Day Courses will be delivered, which equates to over 1,000 places available. A similar number of courses will be delivered in years two and three of the programme.

How are courses set up as part of this programme?

One member of school staff from each state secondary school is offered the opportunity to attend a course, with the exception of host schools who are offered four additional places. Up to 16 delegates can attend a course.

How will this training benefit school staff?

Many school staff are already dealing with situations where they are required to support young people experiencing mental health issues. Youth MHFA training will equip staff with the knowledge, skills and confidence to assist young people experiencing mental health issues on a first aid basis, reducing the pressures associated with managing these situations without adequate training.

MHFA courses also teach people the importance of personal well-being and how to look after their own mental health or support others to do the same. In this way, training school staff in MHFA has the potential to improve the well-being not just of the individual trained but of other staff in the school as well. 

How will this programme benefit schools as a whole?

The Youth MHFA in Schools programme has a role to play in helping to improve approaches to wellbeing in the education sector. Evidence suggests the most effective long-term way to improve mental health is to adopt a 'whole organisation approach' where all parts of the organisation and its community are encouraged to work together in their commitment to wellbeing. Youth MHFA can help those trained to take on a role as a champion and to advocate for their schools to adopt a 'whole school' approach to wellbeing.

How will this training benefit young people?

Around one in 10 children have a diagnosable mental health issue – roughly three children in every classroom – so upskilling frontline school staff to be able to support these children is crucial. Youth MHFA ultimately promotes early intervention which enables recovery, meaning that this training can ensure young people are better able to get the support they need when experiencing mental health issues. 

First published 03 July 2017