An initiative to improve the emotional wellbeing of children and young people in schools has been shortlisted for a national award. The scheme encourages young people to talk to trained school staff about their troubles and anxieties, so they can be addressed before they impact on the child’s health and wellbeing. The project is an innovative response to address the mental health needs of children and young people across the borough and this has been recognised by the shortlisting judges at Positive Practice Mental Health Collaborative – a national organisation geared to highlight best practice in mental health and wellbeing. A multi-agency group, called the Emotionally Healthy Schools’ project, was set up to tackle the issue back in 2016 and aims to develop teaching staff to ensure they meet the mental health and wellbeing needs of their students. In Cheshire East, almost 12,500 children and young people are estimated to have a mental health disorder – this equates to 13 per cent of the population aged up to 24 years. It is also estimated that 20 young people injure themselves each day. The partnership comprises: Cheshire East Council, local schools, Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CWP), NHS Eastern Cheshire and South Cheshire CCGs and the charities Visyon and Just Drop In. Their work is helping more children and young people to ‘feel good and function well’. The ethos of the group is to ensure children focus on improving their resilience and focuses on making it acceptable to ask for support. There are almost 50 teaching staff based at schools across Cheshire East and they are trained to:
● Identify signs that might suggest someone is depressed or feeling extremely low;
● Recognise risk and identify key risk factors of unhappiness/low morale;
● Have increased confidence to ask direct questions about personal issues; and
● List key support services available for young people who feel depressed;
The shortlisting success recognises the success of health and social care bodies that adopt a strategic approach to meeting the needs of children and young people who need help and protection, including early intervention. Councillor Jos Saunders, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for children and families, said: “We are delighted to have been shortlisted for this prestigious national award. The mental health and wellbeing of our children and young people is vitally important to a good experience of childhood and determining long-term health into adulthood. “The scale of our ambition in this area knows no bounds and I am so proud of the strength of our relationship with schools, the health service and other key agencies. “I am delighted that, through this innovative and collaborative partnership with schools, the National Health Service and the voluntary sector – the project has proved popular with young people and early indications have shown an improvement in the mental health and wellbeing in our children across the borough. This has meant we have been able to get to the root cause of problems, early on, so that mental health situations can be better managed by the right people in the right place.” Robert Lupton, team co-ordinator for emotionally healthy schools links team Cheshire East, from CWP, said: “Emotionally Healthy Schools is playing an important role in equipping role in equipping teachers with the skills to respond to the social, emotional and mental health needs of the children and young people they work with. “The project is something that is very close to my heart and to see it recognised in such a way just reinforces that we are making a positive difference.” The awards ceremony will be held in Liverpool on 11 October.