Suffolk youngsters complete mental health first aid course to help combat stress

The ANCHOR programme is being delivered by Volunteering Matters to high school pupils and other youn

The ANCHOR programme is being delivered by Volunteering Matters to high school pupils and other young people across Suffolk (stock image) - Credit: Getty Images

Schoolchildren in Suffolk are learning how to take better care of their mental health and to recognise when a classmate is struggling.

Volunteering Matters (VM) is delivering a first aid course called ANCHOR to young people across the county to help them deal with feelings of stress, depression and anxiety, and in turn relieve pressure on over-stretched NHS services.

Pupils undergo six hours of training in the topics of awareness, needs, coping, help, ownership and resilience; and they then have the opportunity to do a further six-hour course to become a peer mentor.

Northgate High School has taken part, and next month Claydon High School will do the same.

Alison Easterbrook, special needs coordinator at Northgate, said: “We work with youngsters who suffer with a range of emotional wellbeing issues, ranging from normal teenage pressures to quite severe anxiety and depression and that affects their ability to learn.

“So we wanted to make sure we had support in place to meet the needs of our youngsters and we want a system of peer support because sometimes, for whatever reason, youngsters do not want to approach a member of staff.”

VM also offers an adult version of the course, which was completed by a number of parents and teachers at Northgate.

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All classroom staff at the school have previously undergone mental health training with Suffolk Mind.

Stephen Skeet, East of England manager at VM, said: “The feedback so far has been very good.

“The hope is as people become more aware of their self-care they are able to seek ways to improve their emotional wellbeing before they require mental health services.

“We help young people to understand stress and why they feel stressed.”

The sessions are run by advocates from VM who have been specially trained by Mental Health First Aid England.

The ANCHOR project has been funded by Suffolk Community Foundation.

Claydon High School also worked with VM on the BBC School Report Day in March, when pupils went on the radio to talk about mental health.

Karen Robinson, from the school’s safeguarding team, said: “The wellbeing of our students is paramount and this includes not just their physical health but also their mental health.

“The pressures on our young people today are huge and we have been doing some research and work into how we can empower our students to recognise and take care of their mental health.”

Young people from The Mix in Stowmarket, boys at the YBM youth group in Ipswich and learners at VM Suffolk will also complete the ANCHOR course.

Dr Dan Poulter, parliamentary candidate for Central Suffolk & North Ipswich, has celebrated the scheme.

He wrote in a newsletter: “I would like to see all schools in Suffolk sign up to raising awareness of the importance of mental health in schools.”