Frederick Douglass famously said in the 19th century ‘it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men’.
The former slave had been talking about the human tragedy of slavery more than 150 years ago, but it is a doctrine for men’s mental health that transcends the ages – as it is for all members of society.
But as we mark Men’s Health Week, we look at how the poignant words of Douglass – an African American who escaped slavery to become a stateman – are inextricably linked to issues surrounding early childhood experiences in the 21st century.
His famous quotation hits on one of those milestone experiences for young people today: the transition for 11-year-olds from primary school to secondary level education, often especially difficult in Northern Ireland due to academic selection.
Youngsters used to familiar faces for seven years who have to deal with the prospect of unfamiliar surroundings and countless new people can find this a very difficult phase of their young lives. Many are left feeling vulnerable and afraid and fearful as they enter the next stage of their academic lives.
Studies have shown that positive well-being and mental health of a child or young person supports better outcomes in other areas, such as performance at school or behaviour at home.
Early intervention can help to build up the social and emotional skills which are so essential for learning and life, support future good mental health, and discourage risky behaviour such as smoking and substance abuse.
In support this, Action Mental Health’s new Healthy Heroes is an informative, year-long programme designed especially for children in P7, which aims to help them cope with the myriad issues that come with leaving junior school behind and on to secondary level education.
Read more about Healthy Heroes here: https://www.amh.org.uk/healthy-heroes/
The programme builds upon AMH’s popular Healthy Me programme, which aims to promote positive mental health and social and emotional wellbeing in 8-11 year olds.
The programme, which is delivered in Northern Ireland primary schools, explores emotional and mental health, healthy lifestyle choices, and pathways to effective support through imaginative and interactive play and song.