Save our students. Make Mental Health First Aid a compulsory part of teacher training

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In January 2018, I lost my younger brother, Sam, to suicide. He was just 15. While I sat on my bed that Sunday evening, little did I know that only a few metres away from me my brother was about to take his own life. I heard screams through the headphones and ran upstairs at 21:30. I carried out emergency resuscitation for almost half an hour before the mass of emergency services arrived.  No one should ever have to experience the loss and confusion of losing someone to suicide and I hope that, with your help, this petition can save at least one family the awful pain I've had to and continue to face.

As part of research into ways of helping young people suffering with mental health conditions in schools we found that staff are generally not equipped to deal with problems faced by some students as they don't have the knowledge to do so. The same would apply if we consider physical injuries, teachers without training wouldn't know what to do with or how to spot a concussion for example. Therefore, to protect the students, most schools train a number of staff in first aid and almost all have basic understanding of the practise. On the contrary, very little staff members, and in some cases, no staff, have mental health first aid training of any degree. That's why I'm calling on the government to train teachers in mental health first aid too.

Mental health first aid would be a very cheap and easy to run session which outlines potential problems faced by students and offers guidance to staff on what to do immediately (i.e. don't ignore the student). It would also advise staff on who to contact about the student to start putting into place the support they need as quickly as possible. 

There are so many teachers who are capable of dealing with physical medical emergencies, it’s about time that the same can be said for dealing with mental crises as well. The government's current plan states that they want one mental health unit or specialist first aider per school. My argument is that most schools have a single specialist physical first aider as well as having a mass of teachers with knowledge of first aid. So if they could explian why it should be any different with respect to mental health, that would be great. I don't think an epicentre of help is the right way of dealing with this issue, instead we should use the philosophy that all my campaigns are built on, universal knowledge, universal acceptance and universal support. 

Making the training compulsory may seem excessive at first glance but we now live in an age where three students per class have a diagnosable mental health condition [1]. There are over 200 schoolchildren lost to suicide every year [2]. And the rates of depression and anxiety in young people have increased by 70% in the last 25 years [3]. So, I wholeheartedly believe, this isn't an excessive measure to be taking, it's a desperate one.

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[1] mentalhealth.org

[2] papyrus.org

[3] thesamwestfoundation.org



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