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Mental health – how can we support our learners?

Skills for Life Network

Mental Health – how can we support our learners?


Mo Ollier of Focused Training writes about the mental health issues faced by young people in FE, and how developing and implementing an effective mental health strategy can support learner well being, engagement and achievement.

There is growing awareness of the increase in the number of young people with mental health issues, with rates of depression and anxiety amongst teenagers increasing by 70% over the last 25 years. Research undertaken by the National Union of Students shows that this is replicated within the Further Education sector. The NUS Mental Health Survey of 2015 and the NUS Report ‘Experiences of Further Education students and Mental Health in 2017’ revealed some key findings about the mental health issues faced by students in the sector.

  • 40% of those respondents studying in FE in their first year of college or Sixth Form said they had a mental health difficulty (whether diagnosed or undiagnosed) 
  • 33% of respondents said they had a mental health difficulty in their 2nd year college or Sixth Form
  • 87% of total respondents had felt stress, 77% had suffered anxiety and 69% had felt depressed in the last year.

The link between wellbeing and achievement

There is a clear link between a student’s wellbeing and their achievement. Research by the IoE shows that supporting student mental health increases educational engagement and raises attainment. It can facilitate a readiness to learn and improve behaviour and attendance. Further, providing support across the whole organisation will also promote staff wellbeing and retention. 

Supporting mental health

Developing and implementing an effective mental health strategy is key to ensuring that preventative and supportive measures are in place.

Continuing Professional Development, from mental health awareness sessions to Mental Health First Aider programmes and qualifications, is also key. The NUS Report of 2017 recommends that ‘All academic and support staff should be trained in mental health first aid.’  


Find out more

The NUS Report of 2017 has a useful section entitled ‘What does good mental health provision look like?’ which may form the starting point for developing a mental health strategy for your organisation. You can find out more about mental health awareness training and mental health first aid training here  

You can also contact Focused Training for further advice and information:

  • Telephone 0161 799 9667 / 07804 378079 
  • Email 

Mo Ollier, Director
Focused Training

Focused Training provide specialist training in mental health awareness and mental health first aid. They also offer a consultancy service to organisations looking to develop a mental health strategy.  

Further Information

No further information

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