With one in four people experiencing mental health issues each year*, awareness has, over recent years, increased significantly, with national campaigns such as ‘Time to Change’ attempting to address the stigma amongst groups including young people and the student population.
Educational establishments like Northumberland College and the North East’s FE sector, are making huge progress in terms of staff training and development in order for teaching, management and pastoral support teams to recognise the early signs of mental health in students and provide an ‘open-door’ policy to wellbeing support.
The proactive move has now enabled Northumberland to appoint dedicated ‘Mental Health First Aiders’ to fully engage with students on a daily basis and effectively support those seeking help. This has resulted in 60% more students asking for pastoral assistance over the past four years, an indication of just how important staff training has become.
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19 May 2019) is focusing on body image and the changes required in cultural values, parenting styles, schooling approaches, use of technology advertising standards and reducing discrimination. Whilst young women are particularly vulnerable to poor body image, the campaign will explore the issue across gender, age, sexuality and ethnicity.
Principal Nigel Harrett added, “Whilst we, as a sector, have gone a very long way to address the issues from an educational perspective, more can and needs to be done in terms of ensuring mental health and physical health are on an equal footing.
“However, Colleges must also have access to the correct funding and resources needed to deliver the necessary training for staff therefore, by forging partnerships with industry, social and welfare services as well as those working in the medical profession, we can deliver a much more comprehensive wellbeing agenda and development programme that effectively addresses mental health in young people and the student population. Staff can then truly support their needs in line with the real issues that young people face.”
The newly formed regional college group, Education Partnership North East, including Sunderland College, Hartlepool Sixth Form and more recently Northumberland College, has committed to changing the perceptions of mental health in the workplace and will have over 100 staff fully trained in mental health first aid by June. By 2020, this will become one in seven members of staff across all campuses.