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School pupils become first in Scotland to achieve mental health first aid qualification

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The students are now equipped to spot and support signs of mental health issues

A new mental health training course aimed at secondary school pupils in Scotland has been completed for the first time by a school in Bellshill.

The Ready for Life programme, created by St Andrew’s First Aid, Scotland’s only dedicated first aid charity, was launched in May this year, with five local authorities signing up to the pilot, covering both mental health first aid and emergency first aid.

Now, 12 third year students from Cardinal Newman High School have achieved their certification in mental health first aid – the first students in Scotland to do so. 

The programme has been specifically designed to equip young people with the ability to spot signs of mental health issues in family and friends and enable them to reach out and provide vital support.

Recent data has highlighted that mental health difficulties as a result of the pandemic now affect around a quarter of children in an average class size of 22. This represents a significant increase of 20% in 10 months.

Lucy Brown, a student who underwent the training, spoke of her experience. She said: “The pandemic created a lot of anxiety for many students, including myself. Not having access to your usual network of friends for so long, made the situation even more challenging, I wanted to take this course so that I could help others who were experiencing mental health issues but perhaps didn’t realise it – or they did and weren’t sure how to tackle it.

“I feel much more confident in my ability to proactively support people now and to identify the right help for them, even if that is simply by talking. Having learned emergency first aid skills as part of the course too, I am well equipped to assist family and friends should they be suffering from a range of issues.

“I would highly recommend this course. It’s not just about learning vital new skills which could save a life. It’s about growing in confidence and building life skills that will last for years to come. I hope that other schools will adopt the programme and help students like me to benefit from becoming a life saver.”

Helen McGhee, deputy head of Cardinal Newman High School, said:“The students undergoing the certification have found it to be an extremely valuable course for many reasons.

“I am very grateful to St Andrew’s First Aid for creating this course. It offers an opportunity for students to competently spot the signs of mental ill health in others as well as help them address any issues they may be facing themselves.  I look forward to welcoming them back to deliver the course for others, in the future.”

Gayle Adnyana, managing director of St Andrew’s First Aid, said: “It has been a joy to see the very first students in Scotland receive their certificates after completing the Ready for Life course.

“The programme has been planned for some time, so it is great to see it put into action and receive feedback from students which will help further shape the course.

“This qualification has given each pupil a valuable understanding of mental health, how to identify potential problems and most importantly signpost how best to help themselves and others.”

St Andrew’s First Aid estimates that by mid-September, more than 100 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. For more information about St. Andrew’s First Aid’s Ready for Life programme schools in Scotland can contact Jim Dorman on



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