Healthy Heroes – new programme for P7s following year of disruption and beyond

The children of St. Bernard’s Primary School in Newtownabbey help launch Action Mental Health’s Healthy Heroes programme, with AMH MensSana Projects Service Manager, Karen Hillis (left) and AMH MensSana Project Worker, Rachel Horner.

Children navigating the stressful transition from primary school to ‘big school’, following more than a year of unprecedented disruption, are to be aided on their journey through an engaging new programme launched by Action Mental Health.

Healthy Heroes is a new, informative, year-long programme designed especially for children in P7, which aims to help them cope with the myriad issues that come with leaving primary school behind and on to secondary level education.

The new programme builds on Action Mental Health’s highly successful and widely subscribed Healthy Me programme which has been promoting positive mental health in Northern Ireland’s primary schools since its launch in 2017.

Since then, AMH MensSana has delivered the well-being and resilience-building programme to over 21,000 children and adult key contacts. Healthy Me was developed in partnership with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Healthy Heroes aims to deal with issues of anxiety, stress and managing changes, as well as self-esteem, courage, confidence, learning differences and friendship. Crucially, it offers an evidence-based and trauma-informed approach to building life-long skills for coping with change and transitions. It is also all about celebrating individual children’s uniqueness and achievement as they move towards the first year of the next phase of their education.

Traumainformed practice promotes a culture of safety, empowerment, and healing. Fittingly, mental health and well-being practitioners’ feedback has praised its content as ‘positive and reaffirming, empowering, inspirational, confidence and resilience-building’.

The new programme, which takes place during the academic school year, includes a staff information session, and a children’s session each term delivered by experienced MensSana Project Workers from Action Mental Health. 

Teachers will be furnished with monthly resources on individual topics, including lesson plans and presentations which support the objectives of the PDMU (Personal Development and Mutual Understanding) curriculum, for further exploration with the children.

School staff will also be supported by regular, term ‘check ins’ from their Action Mental Health Project Worker, who will also provide additional signposting and support when requested, thereby building their capacity to support mental and emotional well-being with their students during this challenging period.

At the end of each year, children and teachers can look forward to the culmination of the programme with an end of year assembly celebration.

Both children-focused projects benefit from the specialist expertise of teams within Action Mental Health’s MensSana service, which has been delivering its well-being and resilience-building projects to Northern Ireland communities since 2003.

Head of Resilience & Well-being Services at Action Mental Health, Amanda Jones, explained: “The success of Healthy Me has been so overwhelming, but identifying the area of transitioning from primary school, and beyond, as a common need among our Healthy Me schools, we wanted to offer a more focused package on this topic.”

 “Action Mental Health knows the last year has been exceedingly tough for children and young people and as an organisation we want to respond to that very real and ongoing need. We are constantly looking at ways of utilising the unique expertise of our teams in partnership with others to expand the ways in which we are able to support local schools.

“Healthy Heroes is the first in a series of new programmes that we plan to roll out to both primary and secondary schools in communities across Northern Ireland in the coming months.”

To find out more, please email [email protected]

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