New mental health projects across England will help school pupils to deal with their problems and worries after receiving almost £5m of development funding from the Big Lottery Fund.
The funding means that pupils in a number of areas across the country will take part in pilot projects in the new school year. The area partnerships will use this pilot to work up long term plans that could then benefit from a multi-million pound share of HeadStart funding.
The areas receiving grants of £500,000 are Middlesbrough, Cumbria, Blackpool, Knowsley, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Southampton, Kent, Cornwall and the London Borough of Lewisham. The partnerships in these areas will bring together a key mix of young people, youth workers, charities, health commissioners, parents, teachers, GPs and local authorities to address the various factors that influence a young person’s mental and emotional wellbeing.
The statistics on child mental health make stark reading. Among teenagers, rates of depression and anxiety have increased by 70% in the past 25 years while one in 10 young people – so approximately three in every classroom – has a clinically diagnosable mental health problem.
A previous YouGov survey for the Big Lottery Fund revealed that 45 per cent of children aged 10-14 have reported being unable to sleep because of stress or worry, with fifty nine per cent saying they feel worried or sad at least once a week. However, only around 25 per cent of young people needing treatment for mental health problems actually receive it and usually only once they reach 18.
The HeadStart programme aims to develop ways of dealing with mental health issues before they become deep-rooted problems. Focussing primarily on schools, the HeadStart partners will offer a range of approaches, including peer mentoring, mental health ‘first aid’ training, online portals and special resilience lessons helping pupils aged 10-14 feel they have support at in the classroom as well as at home and tackling the stigma that can often surround the issues of mental health.
Angie Hart, Professor of Child, Family and Community Health at the University of Brighton, co-Director of Boingboing Social Enterprise and HeadStart advisor, said:
“Good mental and emotional health is as important to a child’s development as good physical health. Too often this can be neglected until problems and worries have become much more serious. The key to ensuring a strong emotional resilience among young people is early intervention. This involves tackling the root of the causes, including poverty and discrimination. The importance of prevention rather than the cure cannot be underestimated. The HeadStart programme will help to develop ways of supporting young people’s mental and emotional resilience in a world that only seems to subject them to more and more pressures.”