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Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Charity gives teens vital mental health training

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The Ready for Life programme gives young people the skills to spot mental health crisis

A mental health training initiative aimed at secondary school pupils in Scotland has been completed in East Renfrewshire for the first time – marking only the second location in the country to pilot the programme.

Eight pupils across S4, 5 and 6 from Mearns Castle, Williamwood and Eastwood High Schools were involved in the two-day course, which was created and run by St Andrew’s First Aid, Scotland’s only dedicated first aid charity.

The Ready for Life programme, which has so far been signed up to by schools in five local authority areas in Scotland, was designed by the charity to equip young people with the ability to spot signs of mental health issues in family and friends, enabling them to effectively reach out and offer vital support.

Providing teens with a recognised national qualification, the course is aligned to the global conversation on young people’s mental health, by encouraging engagement, improving self-confidence, and securing skills for life.

St Andrew’s First Aid estimates that by the end of October more than 70 pupils will have completed the course. If successful, the charity hopes that the initiative will be rolled out nationally, helping to create a new generation of mental health first aiders.

Callum MacArthur, from Mearns Castle High School, who undertook the course said: “Completing this training has helped me feel more confident in talking about my own mental health and encouraged me to check in more with my friends. It’s so important to talk openly and honestly about how you’re feeling, and I now know how best to identify signs that someone might be struggling and to offer them help and support. The more of us that can do this, the better.”

Steven Hale, depute head, at Mearns Castle High School said: “I am so proud of all the pupils that took up the opportunity to undergo this vital training. Promoting the importance of mental health is a key aspect within our school, and the wider East Renfrewshire, community and we work closely with all our pupils to spread awareness of issues that can affect us all at any time.

“Working with St Andrew’s First Aid, through the Ready for Life Programme has enabled our pupils to be more aware of mental health and the best ways to provide support to anyone facing challenges of their own.”

Stuart Callison, chief executive of St Andrew’s First Aid said: “St Andrew’s First Aid is proud to provide this essential training to young people across Scotland to highlight the importance of mental health awareness and support.

“Teens in particular have faced incredible challenges throughout the pandemic. They have been isolated from friends and loved ones and have faced major disruptions to social activities and education. The impact of lockdown has highlighted a need to focus on the discussion of mental health.

“Our training gives pupils an understanding of mental health and teaches them how to acknowledge potential problems. Most importantly, it signposts how best to help themselves and those around them and encourages open conversations around mental wellbeing.”

The Ready for Life programme has been designed for young people aged 14 and over and will take place over a period of 12 hours across two days to fit in with school timetables. It will provide each young person with two certifications - one in Emergency First Aid at Work and the other in First Aid for Mental Health Awareness, with both certificates valid for three years.

Each pupil taking part in the course will receive a First Aid Manual, Training pack, First Aid at Work workbook and Mental Health manual. Many elements of the course have been specifically selected to meet the Curriculum for Excellence guidelines, which can be adapted to pupils’ individual timetables.

For more information about St. Andrew’s First Aid’s Ready for Life programme schools in Scotland can contact Jim Dorman on