Ten ‘young ambassadors’ from Northern Ireland attended a Youth Mental Health First Aid course delivered by the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust.
The course was presented by the Trust's athlete manager, Adam Whitehead, to young people who are on the Uniting Communities Young Ambassadors programme, which is co-ordinated by the Northern Ireland Government’s Department for Communities (DfC).
The DfC programme aims to engage young people in sports, physical and creative activities that bring communities together and help create the next generation of community leaders.
Youth Mental Health First Aid courses are for anyone who works with, lives with or supports young people aged eight to 18. They teach people the skills and confidence to spot the signs of mental health issues in a young person, offer first aid and guide them towards the support they need.
A large part of the work the Young Ambassadors do in Northern Ireland is with young people aged 11 to 16 and this training is designed to support them in their work in the community.
In 2018, a survey undertaken by the Prince's Trust showed that almost half of young people in Northern Ireland have mental health problems - which is almost double than reported in England - and referrals to Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Northern Ireland increased by 21% in three years up to 2019. Against a backdrop of divided communities and years of austerity, the mental health of young people in Northern Ireland is a hugely important topic and one that the Young Ambassadors are keen to tackle.
One of the participants, Lauren, told the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust website: “The training this weekend was incredibly informative and great learning in relation to strategies in supporting young people with mental health conditions.
“As ambassadors it is important that we inform ourselves on the area of mental health as it is something everyone in society can be affected by and in our roles we can help to promote positive mental health and challenge the stigma around it.”
The Dame Kelly Holmes Trust is supporting the #21by21 campaign to provide 21,000 community sport coaches and volunteers with mental health awareness training by 2021. You can find out more and sign up to pledge your support for the campaign at 21by21.info.