IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Youth Mental Health First Aid Evaluation: Helping Hands for Mental Health

This project will evaluate the impact of Youth Mental Health First Aid Training (Youth MHFA) in London education settings in supporting children and young people's mental health.

This project runs from March 2019 to August 2023.


There are two strands of evaluation:

Strand one: London-wide education settings

Aims to determine the impact of Youth MHFA upon education practitioners’ practice in supporting children and young people’s mental health. Undertaken through online survey, and underway since 2019. Completed at multiple time points at least 6 months apart. 

Strand two: Case study settings in London

Aims to determine the impact of Youth MHFA upon: 

  • children and young people’s mental health, mental health literacy, resilience and self-help and help-seeking behaviour within settings 
  • setting staff mental health practice 
  • designated Youth MHFA lead perception of MH provision within their setting. 

Undertaken through online questionnaire starting 2020-21. Completed at two time points at least 6 months apart. Case studies include six education setting contexts: mainstream primary and secondary, special education, alternative education provision, sixth form college and youth organisation. 

Research team

Project lead


External researchers


This evaluation is funded by Thrive LDN, a city-wide public mental health partnership supported by the Mayor of London’s Young Londoner Fund. Thrive LDN is a coalition of partners working to improve the mental health and wellbeing of all Londoners. 


Statement of prior publication

The findings presented from the evaluation are intended for review and comment only and not intended for wider dissemination, citation, quotation or other use in any form.  

Interim findings

Youth Mental Health First Aid (Youth MHFA) trained London-wide and Case setting Youth MHFA practitioner and mental health leads were invited to share their reflections and insights on the values and challenges in helping young Londoners with mental health issues.  

The reflections and insights in helping young Londoners, were contextual to their experience of implementing Youth MHFA training before, during and now, after the pandemic lockdown restrictions for education settings. 

Indicative quotations to illustrate Youth MHFA trained practitioner and mental health lead perspectives are presented below based on their experiences of implementing their Youth MHFA training: (1) before COVID-19 pandemic and (2) during and, after the pandemic.

Value of using Youth MHFA in helping Young Londoners

1.Before the Pandemic:

‘It (Youth MHFA] allows us as a school to identify possible situations [of mental health] arising.’ School

‘[Young people] appreciated the fact we thought about them [their mental health].’ Sixth Form College

2.During and after the Pandemic

‘[Young people’s] expression of [mental health] issues is far easier when face-to-face.’ Further Education College

‘[Young people and parents] are talking more [about mental health] so might seem like there are more issues but may be talking more about mental health is highlighting [awareness]’ Youth Organisation.

‘We are lucky that we have a dedicated mental health service for the … community,  which means it has been quite easy to access support’. Youth Charity

‘It is common for children in care to experience some degree of mental health issues.  As a carer [with Youth MHFA training] I communicate any concerns with the child's social worker.’ Youth Charity

Challenges to using Youth MHFA in helping young Londoners

1.Before the Pandemic

‘There are more and more cases [of mental health issues] as students become more self aware and this increased volume cannot always be supported at a higher level.’ Academy

‘Not enough time to reflect, judge, follow through on [Youth MHFA] support.’ Academy

‘Student categorically refusing any form of help as does not want to be identified as having any mental health issues.’ School

2.During and after the Pandemic


‘What we really saw was children who were already doing well (in their studies) continued although their writing was sluggish.  Children at lower level, academically, struggled more as well as [with] their wellbeing.’ School

‘We would see young people with anxiety before the pandemic but after, this has been amplified’ Youth Organisation

‘Lockdown had a detrimental effect upon them [young people’s] creatively as they couldn’t do so much online’ Youth Organisation. 

‘Coming back from lockdown has been challenging, they (children) were comfortable at home but were anxious coming back to school.’ School

‘Young people and their families are often reluctant to accept there is an issue [with mental health] due to the stigma that comes with it’. Further Education College

'Schools have been open but pupils with MH [mental health issues] are often not attending … get little support.’ Local Authority