Jennie Bristow argues that government plans for ‘Mental Health First Aid’ risk pathologising ordinary childhood while doing little for those with more serious difficulties

Britain’s schools are changing: not just in terms of what is taught, but also what we expect them do to help pupils. In June 2017, the Times Educational Supplement reported that the government had put £200k behind a plan to train ‘mental health first-aiders’ in every secondary school. The funding is intended to train 3,000 teachers and teaching assistants over the next three years. ‘Teachers will receive practical advice on how to deal with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, suicide and self-harm,’ explained the TES.

If £200k doesn’t sound like it would go a long way, in February this year, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a £5 million programme to train primary school staff in mental health first aid. It’s hard to argue with the proposition that providing more support for the emotional wellbeing of school children is a bad thing, but these proposals may pose problems for children with mental health difficulties and for children who are simply going through the struggles of growing up.