Over 60 Bradford schools sign up to recruit Mental Health Champions to support young people

Over 60 Bradford schools sign up to recruit Mental Health Champions to support young people

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MARK Bambrough has more insight than most into the complexities of health.

His daughter, now 21, suffers with Selective Mutism. Described by the NHS as 'a severe anxiety disorder where a person is unable to speak in certain social situations such as with classmates at school or to relatives they don't see very often,' it affects around one in 140 young children and is more common in girls.

Mark explains how the condition is 'poorly understood nationally and locally' and acknowledges while there are pathways and services for childhood conditions including ASD, ADHD, OCD, the prevalence rates for those conditions, he says, are the same for SM if not higher, yet there is no pathway or service.

"We are not blessed with SM specialists in this country and that itself can cause huge problems," says Mark, who is keen to raise awareness.

On April 26 he will address the Mental Health Champions in his home city of Bradford which is already at the forefront of the Green Paper proposals published by the Government for a trained mental health worker in each school by 2020.

The Mental Health Champions project launched over a year ago. It was developed as part of the Government's drive to support mental health needs of children and young people following NHS England's 'Future in Mind' strategy published in 2015 as part of the Mental Health Services Reform.

Currently the project is running in over 60 schools across the district. There are plans to work with schools in the Craven area too.

The project, which initially began as a pilot phase, is funded by the NHS Bradford Commissioning Groups and supported by the Educational Psychology Team within Bradford Council and Primary Mental Health workers from CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).

Each school has appointed a volunteer member of staff as their Mental Health Champion to promote and deliver themes including sensitive issues such as mental health affects of bullying, self harm and anxiety, through school assemblies, classrooms and one-to-one work with children during school time.

In addition, the website - mentalhealthmattersinschools.org.uk - has been launched to promote awareness of subjects covered in school and provide an invaluable resource to the community, parents and the public.

Faye Keenan, mental health champion project support officer, explains parents, pupils and the public can visit the site and download free resources linked to what has been delivered to their children by the Mental Health Champion in school.

"It is hoped that in showing what the champions are doing with the kids in school that this will be an accessible and easy way for the parents to link in with this and carry on the message at home," says Faye.

She explains the resource page will be continually updated with relevant downloadable resources. Topics covered to date include anxiety; self-harm; the mental health effects of bullying; bereavement and loss.

There is also a parents page with contact details for local and national helplines and organisations offering specialist support. An urgent help button offering advice on what to do in a mental health crisis is also available.

A schools page, featuring logos of the schools participating in the project, gives contact details of the Mental Health Champions.

"With this direct link to someone within school that can provide some form of assistance, and who themselves is being supported through the project by CAMHS and Educational Psychology, we hope will be of great assistance to a parent who has concerns, or a child who may be experiencing difficulties in school," says Faye.

She believes the website is 'vital' as awareness of mental health is increasing in society.

"It is so important that there is support out there to not only be aware of what is going on for our children, but also of how to support them as a parent or carer.

"As many people have access to the internet at their fingertips most of the time, we hope that putting as much information on the Mental Health Matters website will make it easier for parents to keep up to date with what their children are being informed of in school, empower parents with education on what may be going on for their children and will also have a point of contact for help with issues surrounding emotional and mental wellbeing in school."

Mark also welcomes the initiative. "I see the MHC initiative growing organically developing their skills and knowledge and developing a paradigm helping children, teens to overcome their anxieties and difficulties."

For more information, or to get involved email faye.keenan@relatebradford.com.