Education specialists tackle mental health

First Class Supply team members at the new Blyth Workspace office where the MHFA course will take place.

First Class Supply team members at the new Blyth Workspace office where the MHFA course will take place.

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A North East education recruitment agency has joined the fight to help tackle a rising problem of mental-health issues in schools.

First Class Supply, which provides supply teachers and teaching assistants and is the largest supplier to schools in Northumberland, is now offering the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) programme for teaching staff and the course has already experienced high demand.

MHFA Schools will cover key topics around young people’s mental health and wellbeing, with a strong practical focus on how to spot the early signs of a mental-health problem and how to support young people experiencing mental distress.

Government data shows that around three children in every class have a diagnosable mental-health disorder.

The issue was the major topic at the seventh SCHOOLS NorthEast annual summit in October, which included an official announcement of a North East Commission into the mental health of pupils, made by SCHOOLS NorthEast director, Mike Parker, and backed by Ofsted’s Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, in his keynote speech.

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust children and young people’s service has seen the numbers of referrals for mental-health issues triple in some areas over the past three years, with the self-harm group in some areas almost doubling in size.

First Class Supply director Steph Boulton said: “We have been working with health professionals in this area for some time now and we are pleased to be providing a nationally-recognised Mental Health First Aid programme, licenced by MHFA England to our partner schools.”

A rolling programme of courses will start at the agency’s new Northumberland office in Blyth in January 2016.

The courses enable participants to: Spot the early signs of a mental-health problem; feel confident helping someone; provide help on a first-aid basis; help prevent someone from hurting themselves or others; help stop a problem from getting worse; help someone recover faster; guide someone towards the right support; reduce the stigma of mental health problems.