A Rastrick head teacher is highlighting the importance of mental health first aiders in schools in line with Mental Health Awareness Week (May 13-19).
Steve Evans, head teacher at Rastrick High School, said that mental health first aid trained staff in schools provide “vital front-line support for our students who are having a tough time.”
The school has thirteen staff trained in mental health first aid, in addition to a Guidance and Advice Support Service (GASS) providing students with non-referral access to a student welfare officer.
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Mr Evans said: “It’s vitally important that schools have a robust approach to dealing with mental health problems among students. Children are under more pressure than ever before due to an ‘always on’ culture driven by social media and pressure to act, look and even dress a particular way.
“Mental health first aiders in schools provide vital front-line support for students, ensuring they have a specialist team of people to speak to when they are having a tough time.”
Dean Watson, assistant head teacher at Rastrick High School, added: “At Rastrick, our mental health first aiders provide a service that is the first stage of a strategic support plan for students with identified mental health needs, including individual support plans and referrals to specialist therapeutic service providers such as Noah’s Ark.
“Our thorough approach to mental health awareness starts in the classroom, where students receive dedicated wellbeing and healthy lifestyle lessons in tutorial time, including key information about mental health and signposting to support agencies.
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“Our GASS service, run by our student wellbeing team, also allows students to drop in for advice about any issues they might have, mental health related or otherwise.”
A report in April by The Children’s Commissioner found that spending on children’s mental health services such as school counsellors and drop-in centres has fallen in real terms in more than a third of areas in England.
Mr Evans said: “Nationally school funding is a challenge and Calderdale is no different. When you combine the pressure on children with a challenging budget situation for schools, health services and local authorities, then inevitably the support children will receive compared to pre 2008 budget reforms, will suffer.
“At Rastrick, we have worked hard to protect and grow our income through thorough budgeting, excellent academic results which creates rising pupil numbers, tough decision making and no lack of entrepreneurial skill, meaning that we have a budget that allows us to continue to offer outstanding mental health support to our students.”