There have been countless reports and surveys in recent years which all point to one conclusion: the world is facing a mental health crisis.

And this has only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. In March 2021, a survey of 49,000 people in English-speaking countries published by the Mental Health Million Project found almost half of young people face a “clinical level risk” of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.

This issue is inevitably high on the agenda for the FE sector in England. As we explore on page 5 of this supplement, a recent Association of Colleges survey found that 94 per cent of their members have students who have attempted suicide in the last twelve months.

While the government attempts to tackle this crisis in education by creating a new Mental Health in Education Action Group, as well as prime minister Boris Johnson appointing former Love Island contestant Dr Alex George as his Youth Mental Health Ambassador, colleges and training providers have had to come up with their own ways of helping their staff and students’ wellbeing.

Throughout this supplement, sponsored by NCFE, we explore what strategies have been adopted, why mental health is on the rise in the sector affecting staff, students and leaders, and what can be done about it.

What is in the supplement

We kick off on page 4 with a message of thanks from the skills minister Gillian Keegan to the sector before exploring mental health in numbers on page 5. We then delve into the Department for Education’s mental health plans, which experts warn are unambitious and woefully funded on page 6, along with some top tips on strategies to help improve wellbeing in FE.

Moving on to pages 12 and 13 you will hear from young FE students who provide first-hand accounts of their mental health battles, before the Sixth Form Colleges Association explains why the gap between what colleges can provide in terms of mental health support and what students need has never been greater.

From pages 14 to 15 we look into what initiatives FE providers have introduced to battle a mental health “tsunami” for staff and students. The Prince’s Trust then features on page 16 and explains how the FE sector often picks up learners who find themselves at rock bottom after secondary school, with mental health charity Education Support calling for FE staff to get a standardised, professional form of psychological support on page 17.

Page 18 explores the key findings from NCFE’s reported ‘Understanding and Overcoming a Mental Health Crisis in 2021’, before we speak with college principal and mental health coach Stuart Rimmer about why distress is increasing among FE leaders.

We finish up by hearing from Ofsted’s Paul Joyce on how the inspectorate’s interim visits in autumn 2021 found the issue of mental health was becoming more prevalent, as well as campaigner Natasha Devon on why the government needs to fund mental health support services properly instead of promoting coping mechanisms.

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