SQA launches new Mental Health Awareness award

SQA has launched a mental health qualification that aims to help young people understand more about their own mental health and wellbeing.

The new Mental Health and Wellbeing award, which is available now for schools and colleges to deliver to candidates, comprises of three main topics; Understanding Mental Health Issues, Influences on Mental Health and Wellbeing, and Coping Strategies. The course has been developed at level 4 and level 5 on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework. 

Lesley Joyce, Head of Humanities, Care, and Services Qualifications at SQA said: “We have received an unprecedented level of interest in this new award, with schools and colleges from across the country keen to find out more about its content, and when they can make it available to their students. Also, young people themselves have been actively engaging with us during the development period, and have provided valuable feedback and insight into what they wanted to see within the course. 

“SQA is in a fortunate positon to be able to highlight the topic of mental health, and enable young people to raise questions and understand more about their own health and wellbeing, which in turn will help to reduce existing stigma and misconceptions about mental health. We hope the new award will promote greater awareness of the topic and its effect on people.”

Elaine McFadyen, SQA Qualifications Manager responsible for developing the award, said: “The new Mental Health Awareness awards will promote positive discussion around mental health, and introduce young people to positive coping strategies which can help them explore and understand the distinction between the wide-range of normal emotional responses and potential mental health problems, and help them to develop and understand positive coping strategies. 

“Importantly the award will also highlight the potential issues and impact of social media and the Internet on individuals and help to develop resilience. We have been fortunate to receive support from specialists, including representatives from the NHS, the Scottish Association for Mental Health, and The Good Shepherd Centre in Bishopton, which initiated the development of the award.”

Actor Gavin Mitchell, who supports the activity of the Good Shepherd Centre, spoke at the event, and talked about the importance of the new award. He said, “This is really significant. What I believe this new qualification will do is give young people the confidence to understand that it’s not only OK to talk about their mental wellbeing, but it’s really important that they do. If the new qualification goes some way to reducing the stigma and reluctance to discuss mental health issues, then it will be a really positive step forward.”


Leigh Anderson, Faculty Head of Social Subjects, RMPS, and Wider Achievement at Whitehill Secondary School in Glasgow, where the new qualification has been piloted talked about how the qualification has been integrated into the school’s ongoing programme of mental health awareness activities.

Leigh said: “The school already has a comprehensive programme of personal, social, health, and economic education which is available to all pupils, and the SQA Mental Health Awareness Award has complemented that. The course has also given us the chance to work closely with colleagues across the curriculum, and provide a course to our young people that engages them and gives them the opportunity to formalise learning that they are already doing.”

Nicki Dillon, Faculty Head of Inclusion at Whitehill Secondary School added: “The award has given us the chance to talk to pupils about their mental health, and help them understand that it’s OK to talk about how they are feeling. In a short space of time, the award has had a positive impact on the young people at the school and we’ve seen pupils supporting one another, and engage in more positive behaviours.”

Dr Janet Brown, SQA Chief Executive, said: “Our new Mental Health and Wellbeing award contributes to the Scottish Government’s Mental Health Strategy, and will help improve understanding and awareness of young people’s mental health. This development follows a number of activities we have taken in this sector, including the launch of our new Higher National Diploma in Counselling, demonstrating our commitment to improving the provision of mental health qualifications in Scotland.”

Clare Haughey MSP, Minister for Mental Health, said: “It’s absolutely crucial that young people are able to talk about how they feel, particularly regarding mental health. In the past, many people were unwilling or unable to discuss their mental health and to seek appropriate support and treatment. I am thankful that is changing, but we want to go further in working to overcome the stigma that can still be associated with mental health. This new award will help do that and the SQA’s introduction of it is warmly welcomed.”

Schools, colleges and training providers interested in delivering the new award should contact SQA on 0303 333 0330, or visit www.sqa.org.uk/sqamentalhealth.

Whitehill Secondary - Mental Health and Wellbeing - Implementation Overview (449 KB). More information on how Whitehill Secondary implemented the new awards is available here

SQA - Mental Health and Wellbeing Award - Launch Overview (326 KB)