Lawn Manor Academy staff have become Mental Health First Aiders to help remove stigma surrounding poor mental health.
The school's Luke Stacy, Freya Koza, David Franklin and Sally Holgate took an intensive course by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, and are now the school's first point of contact for mental health issues.
Students are encouraged to speak to the newly trained staff if they are experiencing issues such as emotional distress, stress, anxiety or depression.
Luke, Freya, David and Sally have held sessions with staff to introduce themselves and their new qualification, and say although they are not official counsellors, they will act as a listening ear to help people get the support they need in a non-judgemental manner.
Mental health charity Mind estimate that in England one in six people experience a common mental health problem (like anxiety or depression) in any given week. Statistics such as these were behind the Lawn Manor staff's decision to take action in order to help and educate not only themselves, but the pupils of their school.
Maths teacher Freya Koza said: “Teaching during the pandemic was a lonely experience. Many of us were teaching virtually, which meant staring at a laptop all day long and being confined to one space, as we were unable to move around the school.
"Eating lunch on your own and not mixing with colleagues was very isolating. Coronavirus will have an impact on mental health and wellbeing, and our training has taught us how to recognise the signs and start a conversation with someone who may be experiencing mental ill health, to help signpost them in the direction of services that can help.”
The staff said the training from MHFA England was both proactive and preventative, and the school has intentions of extending the provision of Mental Health First Aiders to pupils in the future. The academy says it wishes to continue investing in the mental and emotional health of its staff, raising awareness that physical health is just as important as mental health.
Headteacher Sandra Muir said: "We have always reinforced with our pupils that it’s ok to say you’re not ok and we believe it’s important for our staff to model that behaviour, removing any stigma and talking more freely about mental health. It’s ok if you’re struggling and that applies to everyone in our school community.”
Lawn Manor is part of the national initiative Mindful Employer support network. The initiative recognises employers who value the mental health of staff within their organisations. Staff are given access to an independent and confidential 24 hour helpline service to discuss work, relationships, health, debt or legal issues with fully qualified counsellors or psychotherapists.