PIF Case Study: Mental Health First Aid Organisational Capacity Building Training

Thanks to an innovative initiative to boost the quality of local training provision, learning providers across Liverpool City Region have acquired proficiency in mental health first aid skills to support their learners and staff.

The two-day course, Mental Health First Aid Organisational Capacity Building (MHFA), was delivered by AT Skills as part of GMLPF’s Provider Improvement Fund (PIF) programme. It is just one of the many free CPD opportunities available to learning providers through the PIF portfolio, managed by GMLPF and funded by the European Social Fund and the Strategic Investment Fund via the Liverpool City Region Mayoral Combined Authority.

On completion of the MHFA course, participants successfully acquired the necessary skills to support learners with mental health challenges. In the current climate, providing timely and professional support for learners’ mental wellbeing is high on most learning providers’ list of priorities.

Thanks to the course, attendees acquired the knowledge and skills to identify signs of mental distress and provide mental health first aid.

Specific knowledge and skills

In detail, the two-day course covered:

– An introduction to mental health first aid to ensure that trainers understand the context and drivers for the Mental Health First Aid training programme.

– Contextual information about mental health issues, their prevalence, impact on learners’ learning, participation, and attainment.

– Consideration of a range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, psychosis, eating disorders, suicide and self-harm.

– Information on referral agencies with whom providers might or should work locally.

– How participants can cascade mental health training in their organisations and support colleagues to improve their skills and knowledge and their ability to support learners.

– How to be a workplace champion for mental health training and promote a positive mental health culture in the workplace

Who delivered the training?

The course was delivered by AT Skills, a Liverpool City Region-based training provider that offers high-quality adult learning courses across the UK. One of their specialist training fields is mental health.

AT Skills have delivered the MHFA course four times: in November 21, December 21, February 22 and with approximately 40 learning provider staff attending the four sessions. There are further sessions planned over the coming months.

Wider context and funding

Way before the Covid-19 pandemic, GMLPF research revealed that mental health issues amongst learners were rising and having a significant impact on programme delivery. There was a clear a need for learning providers to access Mental Health First Aid training to build their capacity and capability to work with and support learners. This was both for safeguarding reasons and to enable progression and achievement.

Ofsted has recognised the link between poor mental health and the quality of learning provision. They are keen to understand how providers deal with increasing numbers of learners presenting with a range of mental health issues. With this in mind, it is more critical than ever that learning providers take an active role in improving their knowledge and understanding of mental health issues. In this way, they can break the link between poor learner mental health and under-achievement, reduced participation and retention rates. This was the context for commissioning the delivery of these Mental Health First Aid courses.

What is the Provider Improvement Fund?

The Provider Improvement Fund aims to bring about quality improvements in learning delivery across the Liverpool City Region. The funding is used to provide courses of relevance to learning provider staff in the region

The programme is free to qualifying learning providers.

To qualify for a free place on a Provider Improvement Fund (PIF) course, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be employed by a learning provider who has headquarters and/or training premises located in Liverpool City Region (which comprises the six local authorities of Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral)
  • Your employer should be delivering learning programmes locally to Liverpool City Region employers and learners
  • Be resident in Liverpool City Region but provided your employer is located in the Liverpool City Region, you can be resident in other or surrounding areas
Overview of course content

The AT Skills MHFA course is a comprehensive training programme covering all aspects of mental health awareness, from recognising symptoms to taking the right steps to helping those suffering. Here is a breakdown of what is covered on the two-day course:

Day One

  • Ice breaker
  • Understanding, respect and trust
  • Understanding mental health, illness and wellbeing
  • What is mental health and wellbeing
  • Mental health continuum – place the scenario
  • What is the role of the workplace wellbeing champion
  • Learner mental health and its impact on delivery of training
  • Stigma and discrimination
  • Myths vs facts
  • Understanding mental health disorders
  • Social media and mental health
  • Physiological treatments
  • Mental health awareness – putting it in practice

Day two

  • Mental health first aid
  • Review of day one
  • Recognising the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses
  • What is a mental health crisis
  • What should you do if you think someone is suicidal
  • Mental health CPR
  • Mental health first aid and putting it into practice
Feedback from participants

“An excellent introduction which has given me greater confidence in helping students & colleagues.”

Lynn-Marie Connor, Myerscough College

“This course exceeded my expectations. I now feel equipped to be a workplace wellbeing champion.”

Heather Conway, 3D Training