New Mental Health Initiative For Primary School Children Launched.

parkway-3094Action Mental Health has launched its new mental health promotion programme for Primary Schools called ‘Healthy Me’. The initiative is designed to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing amongst Key Stage 2 children in the school setting, and provide them with the skills, coping strategies and resilience to prevent poor mental health.. The programme was launched at Carrick Primary School in Lurgan by Action Mental Health Chief Executive David Babington who said that the programme will help prepare primary school children for the stresses of transfer test and big changes in their educational life,

Transition from primary to secondary school is a particularly stressful time for children and we believe that targeting the programme at P6/P7 children will help them cope with this transition. This approach is consistent with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence public health guidance which highlights that ‘children’s social and emotional well-being affects not only their mental health but also their physical health and can determine how well they do at school’. Modern life is stressful and can impact on mental health, so implementing strategies for protecting children from stress and helping them learn to cope with change is an extremely positive influence on their young lives. We hope to see the programme adopted across Northern Ireland in the not too distant future.”

Sinn Fein MLA Catherine Seeley who sits on both the Health and Education Committees at Stormont attended launch and warmly welcomed the initiative,

“As a former teacher I understand the importance of improving the mental well-being of our young people. We must ensure our young people feel confident enough to speak out and to discuss their emotions. Transitioning to secondary school can be life changing for a young person so I particularly welcome this programmes emphasis on transition.”

Alison Lindsay, Principal at Carrick PS, looks forward to the finalised Programme being rolled out. ‘

We know that the ‘Healthy Me’ resource will help our staff to identify at an early stage those children who are experiencing mental distress and provide sources of support by working with other agencies. We firmly believe this programme will improve children’s emotional literacy, Promote equality of mental health with physical health and support children as they move from primary to secondary school.”

A range of topics are covered using a mixture of games, small-group activities and discussion, including:

  • What is health?
  • Healthy body, healthy minds.
  • .Coping strategies and accessing help.

The programme aims to promote awareness of emotional wellbeing and positive mental health, to provide teachers with basic training in promoting social and emotional wellbeing, and to encourage help-seeking behaviour among children and help them to identify sources of support.

Healthy Me emerged from the recognition of an unmet need in local primary schools. It was developed using modified elements of the secondary school mental health promotion programme run by AMH MensSana (Provoking Thought) and drawing on existing evidence based initiatives to promote emotional health and wellbeing among the 7–11 year old age group. The programme is delivered as an interactive workshop to Year 6 and Year 7 pupils.

Healthy Me has been developed in Northern Ireland through a collaboration between Action Mental Health (AMH) MensSana, the Royal College of Psychiatrists (NI) Public Engagement Committee (RCPsych NI) and Step 2 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) in the Southern Health and Social Care Trust.

We were delighted to be joined by pupils and staff from St Oliver Plunkett School, Belfast who have participated in the Healthy Me Programme and made this amazing video about their experience!

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