In 2018 the NHS published a study which reported that 1 in 9 children are suffering from a mental health condition. This study has been repeated in 2020 and is now reporting that 1 in 6 children are currently suffering from a mental health condition.
We might want to talk how strenuous this period of lockdown can be, especially for children who now can’t socialise and take part in activities with other children at school; playing with their friends at the park is now forbidden and they are requested to develop their own skills by themselves.
This is putting stress on families who are facing difficulties on how best to manage this period of the Covid-19 pandemic, and how to keep their children happy.
Those are the reasons that brought a local business based in Manchester to develop a Mental Health Champion Programme which is currently running at the Irlam Primary School in Salford.
The founder of One Goal Ltd, Adam Eccleston, has explained in detail what this programme is all about. It is supposed to train children in year 4, 5, 6, and teenagers in high schools.
They want to teach children how to be Mental Health Champions. This means that they can better learn how to take care of themselves with their mental health condition.
But how does it work?
At the moment it is school-based though in 2021 they will launch a home-based programme for parents as well.
They had two workshops at the Irlam Primary School last week. The first workshop wanted to make children excited about the Mental Health Champion programme and teach them relevant skills for their wellbeing.
Also, One Goal has tried to introduce children to what mental health is in a way that children can understand it clearly.
Usually, a workshop lasts half a day, depending on how the schools want to run it. They will run roughly from six to twelve weeks.
The schools get access to an online programme that they will run with children so the schools are able to run this independently from One Goal.
The content that One Goal will offer to schools can be reused again and again.
The idea behind the programme is to give children roles in the school, extra jobs and responsibilities and help them to put those skills into practice.
The lessons last around one hour a week and then the children will be working on the material that the lessons provide for the following week.
The founder of One Goal added: “At the moment, in my knowledge, there isn’t anything like this and we want to train 10,000 Mental Health Champions in the next 12 months.
Can you imagine the impact? What children could have with that knowledge?”
They can become Mental Health Champions”.
During the period of lockdown more than 50 schools in the North West, Yorkshire, Greater London and many others, have shown their interest in the Mental Health Champions Programme.
One Goal has also been available to adapt their programme with the current social distancing rules.
They have made available virtual material for schools in case they want to run it when children are absent due to the current pandemic.
This is the reason why One Goal is receiving more inquiries from UK schools.
Adam Eccleston said: “To my knowledge, there are multiple schools in Salford. It is now more important to show them what the solutions are”.
One Goal has found three main problems that schools are currently facing.
They might have a lack of capacity; schools don’t actually have the capacity to do more because they’re already doing as much as they can. It means that some children are not going to have the extra support that they need and the schools don’t have any more hands.
A second problem is that teachers might not feel confident to support children with a mental health condition. And this is a goal that Adam Eccleston with his business is trying to achieve.
The last problem found by One Goal is the challenge that schools are facing with their own budget.
One Goal programme can provide a bit of extra capacity and enables teachers to professionally support children in need.
The total cost of the programme is £880 per school but at the moment One Goal will be making a contribution of £545.
This means that schools only have to make a contribution of £295.
It is also important that families receive as much support as possible.
During the first period of lockdown from March, One Goal has launched an online programme that gave access to nearly 5,000 families and children.
It was a mini-course that helped families who had unexpected new challenges to face at home.
Even if some children might miss a confident and helpful adult next to them, at home, One Goal still believes that their help is fundamental.
Adam, also said: ”During a community project in 2005 I was giving responsibilities to children and teenagers in a community project.
They could feel part of it. We were teaching them 5 different skills and qualities.”
One of those for example is the ability to observe and recognise when someone is struggling and how to tell if that person is feeling sad or alone.
Adam, added: “We train children to observe that so they can become more observant [in the future].”
Another skill is the ability to connect: how can children connect with someone else?
How they can best communicate with the other children with their body language?
How can they have positive conversations with other children?
One Goal wants to teach children how to remain calm, to deal with stress and their emotions.
Another fundamental quality mentioned by Adam Eccleston is empathy.
He said: ” It has scientifically been shown that helping children with empathy improves their mental health conditions.”
The difficult part is how to take the challenges that a child is facing and make them practical. One Goal wants children to practice those challenges themselves.
They award a badge and certificates to the best performing children in the programme that hopefully will make them feel special in a school environment that is taking care of their wellbeing making them mental health champions.
The headteacher from the Irlam Primary School, Elaine Darwin, has shared its satisfaction about the mental health programme that is currently running there.
Elaine has told about the workshops taken from One Goal last week, when two trainers, Elsie and Ben went into the school to take activities with their pupils in Year 5 and 6. Elaine has described it as a ‘fantastic experience’.
During the workshops, the pupils learned a lot about taking care of themselves and of the other people in order to develop a positive mental health scheme.
This will be fundamental for pupils in Year 6 that soon will live a transition to High School. They are already looking forward to helping the other pupils in the school.
Meanwhile, in Year 5, pupils are also being trained to become ‘peer mentors’ so they can run lunchtime drop-in sessions once the pandemic is over.
Elaine, said: “We would be delighted to have One Goal back in school to help train up more of our young people.
I highly recommend them to other schools that are trying to raise the profile of developing positive mental health in their pupils”.
Elaine has also explained that promoting positive mental health is the top priority agenda at Irlam Primary School as it became in many other schools, since the beginning of the Covid-19.
It became a priority since the school has seen many families struggling after losing their jobs or losing their loved ones. This is the reason why discuss with children about their mental health conditions is more important now than before.
Elaine, has also explained that: “Children need the ability to recognise and deal with their emotions. They need a positive frame of mind in order to build up high self-esteem and resilience.
These are fundamental qualities to make pupils achieve their academic goals.