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Mental health first aid campaign announced to mark World Mental Health Day

Funding boosts for mental health services in England and Scotland

Jo Carlowe

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

A million people across England are to be trained in basic mental health first aid skills.

The announcement from the Department of Health and Public Health England (PHE) was announced today to mark World Mental Health Day. 

The new £15 million programme is designed to improve resilience and help people recognise and respond effectively to signs of mental health problems in others.

The campaign, which will be designed and delivered by PHE, will help people to assess their own mental wellbeing and learn techniques to reduce stress and improve their emotional resilience, as well as improving the public’s knowledge, skills and confidence on mental health. The campaign will launch next year and continue for three years, and comes with £15 million government funding.

Public Health England will work closely with Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England and other mental health organisations to ensure the campaign builds on the knowledge and experience of the sector.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, the mental health charity, welcomed today’s announcement. 

“While the national conversation around mental health is much more open than ever before, initiatives like this should help address the importance of helping all of us to understand mental health.

“It’s encouraging to see this programme also recognising the importance not only of how to respond effectively to signs of mental health problems in others, but also of managing our own mental health and personal resilience. As the first programme of its kind, testing and evaluation of this programme and its impact will be key. We know from our own work that building resilience can be vital.”

He added: “The government also has to anticipate the impact that increased awareness will inevitably have on demand for services, and ensure that the NHS is equipped to respond. The five-year plan for improving mental health services was launched last year and includes an additional £1 billion of investment in mental health services by 2020-21. We need to see this plan delivered, with funding reaching the front line, so that people with mental health problems get the help they need, when they need it.”

Responding to the announcement, Poppy Jaman, CEO of MHFA, said: “We are delighted to be working with PHE on this ground breaking mental health literacy campaign. Educating people how to look after their own mental health, encourage the same in others and be able to spot the early signs and symptoms of mental health issues is a powerful preventative approach and crucially it also encourages early intervention. Giving people the knowledge and therefore confidence around how to support themselves or others to get the help they need is a vital first step to creating a society where mental health is treated equally to physical health. Training one million people in Mental Health First Aid skills will move us much closer to being able to achieve this goal.”

The campaign will run from the autumn of 2018, until March 2021, and aims to give people the skills and confidence to support both their own and other’s mental health. Specifically, the campaign will help people to learn techniques to reduce stress and improve their emotional resilience and improve knowledge, confidence and skills in supporting someone experiencing a mental health issue.

MHFA England will work with PHE and other mental health organisations over the coming months to develop the campaign.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, a half-million-pound funding boost has been announced for NHS24. The numbers of people contacting NHS24’s dedicated mental health line, Breathing Space, has more than doubled over the last decade from 38,000 in 2006 to 87,000 in 2016.

Speaking on World Mental Health Day as she visited one of NHS24’s call centres at Clydebank to meet staff, mental health minister Maureen Watt said: “Building on the plans laid out in our Mental Health Strategy, this £500,000 funding package will help NHS24 to improve their mental health services, whether online or via telephone. This is a key part of our work to intervene early, which we know can help prevent problems from worsening.”

Mental health funding to NHS24 has been a total of £1,125,000. The £500,000 development funding is new in 2017-18 on top of this.

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