Following recent pledges by Prime Minister Theresa May to increase the focus on children’s mental health amid heightened concerns, the Borough of Poole has announced that it has carried out mental health first aid training in primary and secondary schools in Poole.
Provided thanks to funding from Public Health Dorset, the borough’s Children, Young People and Learning Team have led the innovative project to ensure strong emotional well-being in Poole’s children and young people.
Over 50 education staff have taken part in the training so far, which focuses on themes including anxiety and depression, suicide and psychosis and self harm and eating disorders. Further topics specific to young people – including bullying and cyber bullying, substance misuse and good parenting are also covered in the two-day course.
Simon Thomas, senior manager for services for 5-19 year olds in Poole, co-ordinates the project for Borough of Poole. He said, “The roll-out of Mental Health First Aid training is one part of our response to growing concerns about pupil wellbeing across the borough, identified by both schools and the young people themselves. We are also seeing high demand and long waiting lists for specialist child and adolescent mental health and behaviour support services.
“In addition to the Mental Health First Aid project, we are also looking to develop an integrated approach to the provision of Personal, Social and Health education across all schools, and are working with schools to ensure that our children are equipped to make smooth transition from primary to secondary school. In Poole, we believe that children need early intervention to establish and maintain strong emotional resilience and wellbeing.”
An action plan for early intervention has already been developed in partnership between Borough of Poole, Public Health Dorset and senior education leaders. Further projects focusing on improving the mental health of students, staff and parents are also in development.
Kate Curtis, head teacher at Talbot Primary School, has worked on the project as head teacher lead and link to the local Poole Teaching School Alliance. She said, “I am very excited about this project and its potential and believe that we may be the only local authority in the country that has taken this ground-breaking strategy.
“We have now completed the training and appointed specialist leaders of education to support the initiative and help colleagues roll out training throughout our schools, as well as developing a network of mental health first aiders across Poole led by Jane McNiven, SLE lead for mental health.”