14 April 2021

Over 25 students at Birkenhead Sixth Form College are now certified Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs) having completed an in-house training course with the College’s qualified instructor.

The 27 student MHFAs now join the College’s full complement of Student Development and Learning Support teams in their MHFA England qualifications to act as the first port of call for young people in crisis.

Student wellbeing is at the forefront of the College’s considerations, and having Mental Health First Aiders trained in offering immediate help to fellow students or those in their tutorship is a crucial part of recognising the potential difficulties that teenagers may face.

As with traditional first aid, mental health first aid is not about diagnosing conditions or offering treatment, but is about acting as that initial support until that person can be shown to professional help or a beneficial service. 

Our Designated Mental Health Lead at Birkenhead Sixth Form College, Jen Foden, completed her instructor training last year, meaning that both staff and students have benefitted from an in-College instructor being available to run courses for the qualification.

With some students and staff having trained in a face-to-face capacity, it switched to a two day, online course during the two lockdowns in education settings, still testing the participants’ skills and knowledge in the same capacity.

Designated Mental Health Lead, Jen, said: “The 27 students who have completed the course have lots of excellent ideas for how they can use their knowledge to support others, including our new students next year. It has been a really positive experience, and especially useful for students who may have missed out on volunteering and work experiences this year, ahead of completing their personal statements for competitive university applications.”

Jen continued: “The College facilitated my instructor training last year and I have since trained our Student Development and Learning Support staff, as well as opening up the course as an enrichment opportunity for students. I’m certainly looking forward to training many more staff and students at the College.

“I’ve also benefitted from running the programme virtually whilst working from home, using new skills to teach awareness and action planning for mental health first aid, so if we have need to switch to online training provision again, we’re ready for all eventualities.”

Some students on the course said the following: 

“In today's day and age, this is a critical topic to have strong awareness of and be able to provide the right approach in times of need. The course allowed me to question my thought process and actions taken when faced with mental health issues. This increased understanding of the impact such responses could have, led to learning of how to improve the level of support I can give through the strategies detailed.”

“The course was really interesting and delivered in a professional and informative manner. I enjoyed the small group activities and the opportunities to share ideas and feedback. I feel as though I will be more confident now when dealing with mental health issues with my students and the overall importance of my own mental health and self-care too.”

“It gives a very strong and easy to follow understanding of mental health and how you can support those around you.”

“Before taking part in this course, I feel as though I was very naive and narrow-minded when it came to mental health and what it means to be mentally unwell, but now I have a clearer, more defined understanding of what mental ill health is and how to better help someone. I'm very appreciative of this experience and would highly recommend anyone thinking about courses to do with first aid to sign up.”

“The course has allowed me to be able to approach people and help them. I 100% recommend the course and especially Jen as instructor - she couldn’t have done any more!”

The dedicated wellbeing page on the College website is where to find all of the best recommended support services that both young people and their parents may need when tackling any mental health issues, along with correspondence from Jen about relevant topics and issues surrounding the subject – https://www.bsfc.ac.uk/mentalhealth