A NEW mental health service which has been launched at two secondary schools in the Dursley area has been described as “game-changing”. 

Young people at Katharine Lady Berkeley's School and Rednock School have been taught mental health first aid by qualified practitioners as part of their school curriculum.

The project has been organised by Dursley GP Dr Simon Opher with Paul Walley from the NHS and Sarah Frazer who was the founder of the Trinity Rooms community hub in Stroud.

Organisers hope the scheme will eventually launch at Stroud College and the remaining secondary schools in the Stroud district.

Sarah, who has a long experience of teaching mental health first aid, said: “Children’s mental health is in crisis in this country.

“Out of 71 countries in the Global Mind project the UK was second from bottom in the league table, only above Uzbekistan. 

“This project is aiming to do a number of things, including making young people safer, and enabling lower level emotional needs to be met by fellow students and families.”

Sarah says initially five students were trained at both KLB and Rednock but this expanded to a further 25 pupils. 

Trained students in Rednock have also been given lanyards so that fellow pupils can identify them. 

There is also a full system of support for students if worrying symptoms are reported.

Dr Opher, who is also Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Stroud, said: “We secured funding from NHS quality improvement funds and we are now keen to roll out this project at Stroud College and the remaining secondary schools in the Stroud area.

“Every day at work at the surgery, I see a lot of mental distress in young people. 

“The waiting times are ridiculously long for support, so their mental health can really deteriorate. 

“The other part of this game changing service is that lower levels of need will not get labelled as mental health disorders in medical records and instead, the community will help to make people better. 

“It’s really about preventing mental health disorders, and prevention must be central to new ways of working in the NHS.”

Dr Opher added: “The most striking outcome for me was an increase in confidence the course gave students. 

"Our target is to get this into every school in the Stroud area and train at least 120 students across the district.”

One student, who preferred not to be named, said: “I thought the course was amazing as it allowed me to reflect on my own mental health. 

“The group work on role modelling situations was helpful in understanding how in real life I would be able to put my knowledge into practice.”

Another said “It really helped me boost my confidence in talking about mental health issues.

"I talked to people I usually wouldn't talk about mental health, and I think it was a really valuable experience.”