Sixteen 17 and 18-year-olds from Ballakermeen High School became the latest island students to gain a qualification in mental health first aid this week.

The four-hour course aims to provide participants with an understanding of mental health, self-care and how to support individuals struggling.

It is run by mental health training organisation Manx Minds, and sponsored by Tower Insurance.

It is being offered to every secondary school in the island, with King William’s College being the only school that has not taken up the offer yet.

Alison Vondy, founder of Manx Minds, and who provides the training, said: ‘It is an accredited mental health first aiding course, and it has been going on across the world for the past 25 years, so it is very evidence based.

‘The course gives people an initial awareness of mental health and self-care, and spotting the signs of those thinking about suicide, and how to help people initially in a time of crisis.

‘As it is only a four-hour course it is mostly an awareness course.’

This is the second year the course has been offered to students, but the first time Ballakermeen has taken part.

Mrs Vondy explained: ‘What happened actually, which is wonderful, is some of the students from last year went on to do the full two-day course and become fully qualified mental health first aiders.

‘One of those students, Cian Dickinson, is working in PwC as an accountant and he is now a mental health first aider in his workplace, so it really has had a big knock on effect from what started out as something quite small.’

Mr Dickinson, who completed the course at QEII last year, said: ‘The course provided a really beneficial insight into mental health.

‘It was incredibly engaging and interesting whilst also gearing me up with valuable skills I can use for the rest of my life.’

Danielle Cummins, assistant head of sixth form at Ballakermeen High School, said: ‘We want to support our students in becoming informed and proactive individuals and we felt this course would provide essential skills in helping others and making our school community and wider society a safer place.

‘One of the components our students covered was spotting the signs of suicide and how to have those tough conversations with individuals about this, what questions could be asked and where to go to with this information to make sure the person with suicidal thoughts is safe and feels supported.’

She added: ‘With all of the pressures that island youngsters have got on them it is a really difficult time, so I think to have those skills to be able to offer help to their friends and to people in their social circles, is really vital.

‘Also most of the students who partook in the course have got their sights on jobs surrounding mental health, so it will help them when it comes to applications.’

Two of the students in year 13 who completed the course were Sophie Radcliffe who works part-time with the Samaritans and is interested in expanding into mental health, and Katielee Kelly, also interested in working in mental health.

Individuals have to be 16 and over to complete the course.

Mrs Cummins added: ‘We think that it is essential that students are aware of mental health issues that some students may be going through and to be able to spot the signs and help.’