The recent wave 1 follow up, from the Mental Health of Children and Young People’s Survey, published by NHS Digital (2020), found that the rates of probable mental disorders were significantly higher for females (27.2%) in comparison to males (13.3%). With COVID heavily impacting the current cohort of 16 – 18 year olds, the number of students reporting mental health issues has also risen, regardless of gender. For example, the report found that 54% of 11-16 year olds and 59% of 17-22 with a probable mental health issue voiced that lockdown had made their life worse. This is concerning to us as a department which is female dominant and delivers to students who have been in lockdown during the important times of taking GCSEs/ completing final college years – impacting future choices.
The survey further found that over half the participants (69.6%) of those with a probable mental health disorder also reported having sleep issues (NHS Digital, 2020). It is evident from research that sleep deprivation can impact educational achievement and worsen mental health further, impacting future prospects (Mental Health Foundation, 2020). Highlighting the importance of identifying mental health issues and encouraging and supporting students to seek help.
Regardless of several national and local projects (Every Mind Matters, Mental Health Strategy, Kooth, Counselling), statistics are still high corresponding with the long waiting lists. A project which initially started in Australia, was adapted and promoted by The Department of Health: National Institute of Mental Health In England (NIMHE) to improve mental health. The aim of this project is to have mental health first aiders within the society to support mental health and wellbeing. The core mission is to ‘train one in ten people in mental health awareness & skills’ (MHFA, n.d.).
I recently attended the Mental Health First Aider Training which provided a useful insight into a range of common mental health disorders and ways individuals can be supported. A number of courses are offered by MHFA and the awareness course has been arranged for year 2 students on HSC and EY. The aim is to provide them with up to date knowledge and skills to support them in either employment or HE where the level of pressure is likely to increase following on from college. Although the project has been running since 2007, little is known about them providing an industry update to students. Optional modules have been changed to include mental health and wellbeing, adapting to the needs of the sector. The training should provide students with expert knowledge within the field, supporting academic achievement.
The current waiting time for counselling within college is approximately 12 weeks which could potentially cause deterioration. I hope the awareness course allows them to identify signs of mental health, breakdown barriers, and signpost themselves and others to recovery. Not only will this awareness course support them in their current situation, they are training to be practitioners, whether this be in the EY/ HSC sector. It is important for them to be able to identify signs and support their service users as early as possible. The hope is for them to gain up to date, transferable skills and knowledge, supporting them in their career choice &/ next steps to University. In order to measure the impact of this project, I am hoping for an uptake of student mentors to support new students and possibly others within the college.
There is evidence suggesting one-to-one peer mental health supports psychosocial outcomes (White et al, 2020; Hunt & Byrne, 2019). Participants reported positively to mental health support workers who they viewed as ‘recovery role models’, which in turn reduced self-stigma, normalising mental health issues and instilled hope for recovery. I would hope these outcomes would also be mirrored for our students within the department.
We are hoping to arrange this training again for our year 1 students going into year 2 towards the end of the academic year so that mentoring and support is available to our new cohort from the onset of the new academic year.
To see whether students take up mentoring year 1 students. If there is a good take, I would hope to promote this throughout the college. Some students have already voiced an interest in being trained as a first aider. If there is a demand, I would hope to get funding to support student training at the end of the academic year.