SCHOOL pupils in the Wee County were given the opportunity to learn vital new skills recently as they underwent mental health first aid training.

Senior students from Alloa, Alva and Lornshill Academies reported improved skills, knowledge and confidence recognising mental health problems after undertaking the training.

Nineteen pupils undertook the course in at the beginning of September to increase awareness and support for pupils as they look to develop the role of mental health champions in schools.

Feedback from the pupils was extremely positive with young people reporting that not only were they more aware of mental health issues, but were also able to offer better support and advice.

Some of the comments from students included: “I know how to help people with mental health problems,” and “I understand more easily the way in which different mental health conditions affect people and how to provide short term support.”

Teaching staff also found the course very useful with one highlighting that some of the pupils who had undertaken the training wanted to present at school assemblies to help raise awareness of what they had learnt.

NHS Forth Valley senior health promotion officer, Fiona MacFarlane, said: “Often when young people experience mental health problems they find it very difficult to speak about them but this course is about giving young people the skills and confidence to offer peer support.”

Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid (SMHFA) training is a national programme delivered over 12 hours to give people the confidence to respond to a person in distress or experiencing a mental health problem.

As with the more familiar physical first aid courses, mental health first aid is designed to provide comfort and preserve life until appropriate or professional help arrives or the crisis resolves.

The course deals with attitudes, recovery, the impact of alcohol and drugs, suicide, self-harm, depression, anxiety and psychosis.

It does not train people to be mental health workers but provides information about mental health problems and practical skills to allow them to respond to someone in need.