World Mental Health Day – Heather and Charlotte on their Mental Health First Aider Training

10 Oct 2018

The National Youth Agency (NYA) is the national body for youth work in England.

Heather and Charlotte are both Youth Workers working on The Environment Now programme. The Environment Now programme is an O2’s Go Think Big programme which funded 50 17-24 year olds with up to £10,000 for their digital, environmental projects. The Environment Now programme is funded by O2 and the National Lottery’s Big Lottery Fund through the Our Bright Future programme. It is managed by the National Youth Agency


Thanks for sitting down with us today, would you both mind introducing yourselves?

Hi, I’m Heather, Young People’s Coordinator, and Qualified Youth Worker (Derby, 2015) My role involves working with young entrepreneurs through their journey on the programme, working with them around budgets and timelines through regular catch up calls and project visits.

HI, I’m Charlotte, the Events & Marketing Coordinator for The Environment Now programme at the National Youth Agency. I’m JNC qualified youth worker and I am passionate about working with young people to ensure they have the opportunity to reach their full potential. I completed the Youth Mental Health First Aid training course in May 2018 with Passport to Wellbeing at Loughborough University.

So why did you both go on the MHFA training?

Charlotte: As a youth worker, I work with young people on a regular basis so I wanted to increase my knowledge about different mental health conditions, and also learn the best ways to support young people in taking care of their mental health.

Heather: I completed the Youth Two-day Mental Health First Aid training in November 2017 with Birmingham MIND after seeing it posted on social media. After looking into the content of the course I knew it would be beneficial to me to attend, especially as I work with young people, who may be vulnerable or display symptoms of mental ill health. I wanted to know how to support them and how to have those potentially difficult conversations.

And did you learn anything in the training which surprised you?

Charlotte: There were lots of surprising statistics, particularly around suicide. For example, it is estimated that 9% of 16-24 year olds have attempted suicide at some point in their life. This figure evidences the need to address mental health issues for young people. Furthermore, suicide is the most common cause of death for boys aged 5-19. Again, this emphasises the importance of better mental health support for young people. I was also surprised by the age at which people can become suicidal. The trainers had known someone who was aware of a 5-year-old who completed suicide. Although suicide is very rare in such a young age group, it is still important for those working with children to be aware of this and look out for any warning signs

Have you used anything from the training in a real life scenario yet?

Heather: I think going on the training has definitely made me more aware of different types of mental health conditions and I have a much better understanding of the signs and symptoms. Within NYA we have become more mental health aware as there are four of us who have been on the two-day Youth Mental Health First Aid course. I definitely feel open to talking to colleagues about how I’m feeling which has been a direct result of the training.

I had a conversation with my father about the training also as he said he’s been asked to go on an adult course from his employer, but he didn’t really understand what it was about. We spoke about the content I learnt and how it equips you to be able to have conversations with people about mental health – he’s signed up to a course since our conversation!

And how do you think you would use this training in your current role?

Charlotte: In the training, we discussed several myths about mental health and looked at the realities behind them. Here are some examples:

Myth: Suicide is a choice

Reality: Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.

Myth: By asking a young person if they are suicidal, you could be putting the idea into their head.

Reality: Don’t be afraid to ask a young person if they are suicidal. You can’t put the idea in someone’s head, but by asking you may be starting the conversation they have been struggling to bring up.

Myth: If a young person talks about killing them self they won’t do it.

Reality: If a young person is talking about it, alarm bells should be ringing. We should be viewing this as ‘attention needing’ behaviour, rather than ‘attention seeking’.

Discussing these has made me feel much more confident about talking to the young people I work with about mental health. The training as a whole has equipped me to deal with a crisis situation much better than I could have before. It has provided me with a lot more knowledge about different mental health conditions and I know the signs to look out for and the actions to take to best support a young person in need.

And finally, Heather, why is Mental Health important to you?

Heather: Mental health is important as if affects everyone, whether that’s from experiencing it yourself, to having friends or family members who do. For me, my first real encounter of mental health was when a close family member completed suicide. This has made me passionate towards ensuring young people have access to the support they need, or at the very least a Youth Worker who they can talk to openly about their mental health, and doing the Youth Mental Health First Aid training provided me with tools and techniques to do this.