Schools across North Ayrshire are being trained in mental health first aid.

They have joined up with mental health organisation See Me in a bid to tackle stigma and improve mental health for young people.

A total of 36 staff, and 240 pupils from Greenwood Academy, Irvine Royal Academy, St Matthew’s Academy, Kilwinning Academy, Ardrossan Academy, Arran High School, Auchenharvie Academy, Garnock Community Campus and Largs Academy, began their training in June.

It involves the What’s On Your Mind pack for young people and the adults in their lives, to help build confidence on discussing mental health, look at the impact of stigma and discrimination and how we can tackle it.

Once it’s complete the staff and pupils will be able to take the pack back to teach in their schools, potentially reaching all 7842 pupils in North Ayrshire.

Kirsty, one of the pupils who took part, said: "Mental health is a really big thing and impacts on everyone’s lives. I want to help people if they ever need someone to talk to.”

See Me youth volunteer, Sally Nimmo, 25, said: “When I was in school we didn’t get anything on mental health, we didn’t know what mental health was. So I think this is really important to give the kids space to talk about things which they have maybe never spoken about before.

“The more opportunity you give young people, the more comfortable they become in speaking about it. I think getting young people to ask questions about suicide is really useful, because they probably will have never done that before, and it is a really useful skill to have.”

Stuart Sheriffs, Geography and Modern Studies teacher at Auchenharvie Academy, said: “We wanted to do the training as it’s about the confidence to approach conversations with the sound knowledge that you aren’t saying something you’re unsure about. We often avoid these sorts of conversations and pass them on to pastoral staff or deputy heads.

“Staff training will empower school staff to feel confident when discussing mental wellbeing and open up conversations as easily as we discuss our physical health.

“Following feedback from previous See Me work in other local authorities it was emphasised that junior years took more out of the sessions when delivered with senior pupils. By providing our senior pupils with this knowledge and skill to listen effectively, it is hoped that they can better support the junior years and those entering into secondary education from primary.”

Suzie Dick, deputy head teacher at Arran High School, said: “We are aware of our unique context that, as an island, there is no separation between us and the community, we are all one, so that whatever we did had to reflect that. See Me were key partners for us in helping us provide training for our community.

“The end result has been 34 members of our community, including our upper school, who have a certificate in mental health first aid.

“The ultimate impact we are hoping for is that the stigma is removed community wide and that the support begins at home with early recognition.”

Eilidh James, principal teacher mental health and wellbeing at North Ayrshire Council, said: “One of the barriers to this is stigma and discrimination I believe that through the work with See Me, there should be a positive impact on student wellbeing.”

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