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New mental health qualification for school pupils

Courses designed to help teenagers spot warning signs of mental ill-health and understand coping strategies

Third of teachers have mental health problems

Courses designed to help teenagers spot warning signs of mental ill-health and understand coping strategies

School pupils and college students will soon be able to study for qualifications in mental health.

The awards, which have been created with the help of several specialists in mental health, are designed to help young people talk about their feelings and spot warning signs in others.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) today said it hoped that its National Progression Award in Mental Health and Wellbeing would improve young people’s understanding of these issues.

The award – equivalent to a National 4 or 5 in Scotland and, broadly, a GCSE in England – will cover a range of topics, including: understanding mental health issues; influences on mental health and wellbeing; and coping strategies.

The new qualifications will be available in time for schools, colleges and training providers to start delivering it in 2018-19.

Anne McKechnie, consultant clinical and forensic psychologist at the Good Shepherd Centre in Renfrewshire, which houses vulnerable people aged 12-17, first proposed the idea of the new qualification to the SQA.

Teaching pupils to talk about their feelings

She said: “There is often a stigma attached to mental health which frequently stops children, young people, and many adults from seeking help. We hope that this new award will help people to realise that it’s important to talk about how they are feeling [and learn] how to recognise potential problems in themselves and in others, and how they can find help when they need it.”

Lesley Joyce, SQA head of humanities, care and services qualifications, said the positive feedback around the new qualifications was “unprecedented, and a clear demonstration of the interest young people have in these awards”.

She added that they would help students to “explore and understand the distinction between the wide-range of normal emotional responses and potential mental health problems”.

SQA qualifications manager Elaine McFadyen, who is leading the development team, said a unique approach had been taken, in that potential recipients of the awards helped design them. A survey on what the qualifications should include attracted over 1,700 responses, including nearly 1,000 from under-18s.

Ms McFadyen said: “Many of the submissions came from young people who had experienced mental health issues themselves, or knew of friends and family who had similar experiences. The feedback we received often said the qualification would be a good way of informing others at school – both teachers and pupils – about the challenges people with mental health problems face.”

Jo Anderson, director of external affairs at SQA charity partner SAMH (Scottish Association of Mental Health), said the charity was “extremely proud” to have been involved in the creation of the awards.

Schools, colleges and training providers interested in delivering the new qualifications should contact SQA on 0303 333 0330, or visit

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