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UAE schools receive awards for training teens in mental health first aid

Sat 25 May 2024    
| 2 min read

Schools across the UAE have been commended for their exceptional efforts in promoting students’ mental health.

Dubai’s Gems FirstPoint School – The Villa was recently honored with the School Mental Health Award by the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools, part of Leeds Beckett University in the UK.

The school received the silver standard certification for its peer-to-peer mental health program for students and integrated wellbeing curriculum, which includes ‘happiness trees’ and mindfulness spaces.

Matthew Barrett, head of primary, highlighted that the award acknowledges the crucial work being done to enhance mental wellbeing.

He said year 12 and 13 senior students trained in mental health first aid serve as “wellbeing warriors.”

“These pupils visit tutor groups in the secondary school every morning, providing peer support and checking in with fellow pupils,” he said.

Additionally, pupils trained as “empathy detectives” are encouraged to recognize and appreciate peers who display kindness and empathy.

Also read: International School of Choueifat & Gems United Indian School take U15 football honors in ADEK sports championship

Mental health ‘first aid’

Gems Wesgreen International School – Sharjah was awarded the prestigious TES Student Mental Health Initiative of the Year award.

The school’s Teen Mental Health First Aid program trains students to identify peers who may be struggling with mental health issues. Since 2021, it has trained 75 students as mental health first aiders.

Roxanne Wolmarans, head of student support and inclusion, mentioned that the program was initiated after staff noticed a decline in students’ mental health, particularly following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We had pupils come to us and they said we needed to do something more on a pupil-level, because we did have our counsellors, but we were still not reaching all of our pupils,” Ms Wolmarans said.

The school collaborated with The Lighthouse Arabia, a mental health clinic in Dubai, to train the mental health first aiders.

“The programme is also about creating awareness to reduce stigma,” she said. “We do have a big push for mental health and psychological wellbeing within our school for our parents, pupils and our staff. This year, for example, we’ve run workshops on psychological wellbeing.”

The school also has a wellbeing curriculum and an anti-bullying committee working alongside the mental health first aiders.

Gauri Chibber, a 19-year-old Indian student, stated that the mental health first aiders programme is vital as it helps build connections among students.

She pointed out that cyberbullying and academic stress are significant issues affecting students, and the first aiders help guide peers who feel overwhelmed.

“There’s academic pressure to get into a university or to get the best grades, that’s very common,” she said.

“During the training, we were taught how to tackle situations if we believe a pupil is struggling. However, we are not supposed to diagnose anybody. What we were taught was to be empathetic towards them in such a way that they don’t feel intimidated. We could guide them to the wellbeing leaders such as our counsellor.”

Gold standard

In 2021, The British School Al Khubairat received the Gold Standard Mental Health Award from the Carnegie Centre.

“These include a counselling service, a range of preventative measures and activities, a wellbeing group for staff, and holistic wellbeing education for pupils, staff and parents, to develop their wellbeing practice at home,” said head teacher Mark Leppard.

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