Mental health pilot launched by sports stars

New pilot targeted at children will see implementation of mental health leads for each school

A six-month rapid pilot has launched in Greater Manchester schools to deliver mental health and emotional wellbeing support to children in response to rising mental health struggles in young people.

One in ten children currently experience a mental health difficulty. The programme is a new collaboration between national children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust (YST), Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, the Alliance for Learning Teaching School (part of Bright Futures Educational Trust), 42nd Street and Place2Be.

Backed by Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, and world-champion Thai boxer and YST ambassador Rachael Mackenzie, more than 30 primary and secondary schools will be involved before a full launch over the next couple of months.

Chris Wright, Head of Wellbeing at the Youth Sport Trust, said:

We are excited by this innovative approach to addressing school related stress and anxiety through physical activity and wellbeing support for students.

We are particularly pleased that Greater Manchester is acknowledging the evidence that addressing both the physical and emotional needs of young people is more effective in preventing mental health issues in the long term. We know that declining physical and emotional wellbeing is preventing young people achieving and this approach will be pioneering in helping them achieve their potential.

The 30 schools will be the first to benefit from specialist support for both pupils and teachers. Athletes such as world champion, Thai boxer Rachael Mackenzie and former England hockey star, Charlotte Hartley, will work with pupils across primary and secondary schools together with special educational needs schools and pupil referral units.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said:

I want every child growing up in Greater Manchester to achieve their full potential both in and out of the classroom.

That means ensuring that young people get the help and support they need as they navigate growing up in an increasingly insecure and challenging world. This schools pilot, using sport and professional athletes, is part of our work to transform mental health services in Greater Manchester and ensure we give all children the best possible start in life.

Students will be supported to build their confidence and reach their full potential; coached in key life skills such as growing their self-esteem, learning creative thinking skills and coping strategies for challenges.

Each school will have a lead for mental health and they will be trained to understand and spot the signs of mental health issues in children and young people such as anxiety and stress. Teachers will be supported to work more effectively with children and young people experiencing mental health problems. In addition, they will have support and consultation directly with a specialist mental health team who will provide advice, information and support schools to access appropriate services if needed, in a timely way.

The vision is that the pilot will inform a Greater Manchester programme for all schools and colleges to access and benefit from.

The pilot is part of a major £134m four-year action plan to help to transform mental health in Greater Manchester, announced in July by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

Dr Sandeep Ranote, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, children’s mental health lead for Greater Manchester - and incumbent Medical Director at North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said:

I am delighted that Greater Manchester is leading the way with the roll out of the rapid schools pilot. Many children and young people spend a lot of their day in school and as a Partnership we want to provide that support in a familiar setting. We should look after our emotional health and wellbeing as we look after our physical health. Our children and young people deserve the best start in life and our focus is on making sure this happens and helping prevent problems in the future.

The overall investment programme – the biggest and most ambitious of its kind in the country – aims not only to put mental health on an equal footing with physical health, but to start to deliver the area’s vision of making sure that no child who needs mental health support will be turned away.

The launch took place at Heathfield Primary School, Bolton on 9 March.

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