Children’s mental health programme secures three new schools

An award-winning mental health programme is now reaching children in new areas of the Liverpool City Region.

‘Tackling the Blues’ is a sport and arts-based education program for children and young people. It is delivered by Edge Hill University, charity Everton in the Community, and art gallery and museum Tate Liverpool.

It has recently secured three new partner schools:

– Smithdown Primary School 

– Maghull High School

– St Andrew’s C of E Primary School 

The Tackling the Blues (TtB) team are exploring new and creative approaches to delivering the programme with Smithdown in recognition of the diverse communities the school serves, with a number of different first languages spoken by pupils.

Beth Kelly, Key Stage 1 and 2 teacher at Smithdown Primary School and associate tutor for education at Edge Hill, said: “We want to support our children with emotional literacy, so they feel confident and equipped to deal with a range of experiences and emotions if they arise. 

“It’s fantastic to see the children flourish through our work with Tackling the Blues; they have listened to teachers and children to devise bespoke sessions individual to each class in our school, tapping into current interests and ideas from the children.” 

To celebrate Children’s Mental Health Week (6-12 February), student mentors from Edge Hill University have been leading special sessions at the three new schools. 

They have also been leading sessions with ongoing partner schools St Joseph the Worker RC School and Westvaco Primary School in Kirkby.

Beth added: “Mental health education for the next generation is vital in today’s society and marking Children’s Mental Health Week has opened up opportunities for further discussion and education around the topic.” 

In one activity, children were encouraged to pass a string of wool from one friend to another and then another. 

This was to illustrate how friendships and interactions are all interlinked, weaving the Children’s Mental Health Week 2023 theme of ‘Let’s Connect’ in.

Edge Hill programme leads Dr Helen O’Keeffe, from the faculty of education, and Andy Smith, professor of sport and physical activity, highlighted how important feeling connected is for children and young people.

They said: “Children and young people growing up now can find it very difficult to navigate the many different ways to connect with other people and that can often be a contributing factor to their overall mental health and wellbeing. 

“This Children’s Mental Health Week, we have taken the opportunity to talk about the importance of connecting with others in a meaningful way, how we can draw strength from connections with a variety of different people and help others by reaching out when they may be feeling isolated.”

Phil McClure, Tackling the Blues project co-ordinator at Tate Liverpool, said: “We’re pleased to see the expansion of Tackling the Blues into more schools and the success the engagement is having on the children’s mental health literacy. 

“The TtB sessions build confidence, communication skills and self-esteem, and Children’s Mental Health Week is an opportunity to explore this, using the Tate collection as inspiration, to help the young people learn about the importance of recognising and expressing emotions.” 

Tacking the Blues supports children aged 6-16 who are experiencing, or are at risk of developing, mental illness.

There are now 40 student mentors delivering sessions in 16 schools in the Liverpool City Region and West Lancashire including the three new schools, with 780 children engaged each week.

Image credit: Little Amal by Gareth Jones

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