Gail Ross (pictured), MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross has raised the issue of pupils’ mental health during a virtual meeting of the Education and Skills committee on Monday evening.
Answering questions from the committee were the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney MSP and COSLA’s Children and Young People Spokesperson, Councillor Stephen McCabe.
Ross noted that parents in her constituency had contacted her regarding the proposed reopening of schools on August 11th and had raised concerns about how the return to education will affect their children’s mental health.
Regarding this issue, Ross asked:
“How will these parents access help and support should they wish to?
“How are teachers and all the staff going to deal with these challenges and will the Scottish Government consider the introduction of mental health first aid training? “
The Cabinet Secretary replied:
“Young people will have had a significant period away from formal schooling, there will be anxieties about coming back into schooling, some of those young people may have had very difficult experiences during the period of lockdown and some of them may have suffered bereavement and loss as well
“I acknowledge the very keen interest of members of school staff to wish to be able to support pupils in all that they do with their learning and to enable them to be in a position to overcome any issues that they may face, and if that involves access to mental health first aid training, then I’m very happy to consider that”
Councillor Stephen McCabe added:
“Children are not going back to the same environment they left, and you cannot simply expect them to pick up a normal curriculum from day one.
“There needs to be a focus on their health and wellbeing and that will be a key part of that people call ‘the recovery curriculum’ …their health and wellbeing will be a primary focus in those early days.
“I think the suggestion of mental health first aid training is absolutely a good suggestion.”
Mental Health First Aid training seeks to equip learners with knowledge and awareness on a range of mental health illnesses enabling the recognition of common signs and symptoms either during a mental health crisis or during the development of a mental health illness.
Training is not intended to replace the input of a medically trained professional, but to highlight awareness of mental health issues and conditions within the school or workplace.
Subject to the continued suppression of the virus, and to surveillance and mitigations being in place, schools will re-open from 11 August.