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Newham's HeadStart helping the borough's youngsters with their mental health

15 June 2018 in Education
Government officials and policy makers and the Big Lottery Fund paid a two day visit to an innovative mental health programme in east London to find out how it is supporting young people to become more resilient.
Government officials and policy makers and the Big Lottery Fund paid a two day visit to an innovative mental health programme in
​HeadStart Newham provides a range of activities in schools, online, in the community and for parents, from social action projects, to creative and sports activities, all with the aim of preventing  mental health problems from becoming more serious.

The initiative has been running since 2016 and is delivered in partnership with the London Borough of Newham and funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund.

Since then it has worked with and supported more than 1,400 young people and and 160 parents. 

Caroline Prudames and Daniela D’Urso, Children and Young People’s Mental Health Team leads from the Department of Education alongside paid a visit to three schools in the borough to see the HeadStart programme in action. Councillor Julianne Marriott, Newham’s Cabinet Member for Education, Children and Young People  joined the officials for part of their tour.

The delegation’s first stop was Lister Community School in Plaistow, E13, where they met groups of students and staff who explained the impact the programme was having in their school and how it was helping with exam stress.

At Curwen Primary School also located in Plaistow they met pupils who have taken part in HeadStart BounceBack, which supports young people to have tolerance of others, make the correct choices and reflect on their actions and feelings, allowing them to ‘bounce back’ from the everyday challenges in life.

They also met with young people taking part in the HeadStart Champions programme which aims to incorporate pupil voice into the school’s mental health and wellbeing strategy.

At Little Ilford School in Manor Park they sat in on a HeadStart peer mentoring session – More than Mentors - which provides a safe environment for young people to talk about their worries with peers, whilst developing relationship skills. 

On day two of the visit officials will take part in round table discussions with staff from primary and secondary schools, and meet youth and mental health practitioners who are delivering activities in the community, as well as local parents who are delivering peer led parenting courses across the borough.

The programme is currently being evaluated by a consortium of researchers led by the Anna Freud Centre to measure how each element of the programme, individually and in combination, builds wellbeing and resilience, leading to improved mental health outcomes, as well as reduced exclusion and reduction in risky behaviours.

Councillor Julianne Marriot, said: “The emotional wellbeing of children is as important as their physical health, as mental health problems affect about 1 in 10 children and young people. They include depression, anxiety and conduct disorder, and are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives. 

It is important that we do all we can to try and prevent mental health issues in our young people as this can stay with them for life. Programmes like HeadStart are valuable in  supporting our young people’s well being. I was really impressed with the parents, carers and students I met during the visit and found listening to the support and challenges they had overcome inspiring.”