‘What price can be put on mental health?’

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A mental health champion for schools would help raise awareness and reduce the stigma around young people’s mental health issues, according to a Newtownabbey teacher.

Leigh Cooper from Ballyclare, an officer with the Ulster Teachers’ Union, was speaking in response to the recent creation of such a role in England.

“The move comes as part of a wider government commitment to improve children and young people’s mental health through a joined-up approach so that every organisation involved with caring for children and young people works together to support them with their mental health, not just the National Health Service,” she said.

“Teachers are often a young person’s first line of defence in looking after their mental health. It is vital therefore that our teachers have the training and support to recognise when a young people may be at risk of self harm or have mental health issues.”

Leigh added: “Our teachers need the resources to be able to offer these young people the correct advice - and they need support for their own mental health too, given the stress these situations cause.

“If a teacher has been approached by a young person is a depressed state, at risk of self harm or worse, they take that home with them. They too need to have the tools to cope.

“Sadly, at a time when schools are struggling to buy text books, counselling and pastoral care services may not always have the priority they deserve. But what price can be put on mental health - either that of the teachers or the students?”