A multi-agency project aimed at improving the mental health of children and young people across Cheshire East has been shortlisted for a top national award.
The ‘Emotionally Healthy Schools’ project has been running for nearly two years and is supported by a number of agencies, including Cheshire East Council, local schools, Cheshire and Wirral Partnership, NHS Eastern Cheshire CCG, NHS South Cheshire CCG and the charities Visyon and Just Drop In.
The project is an innovative response to address the mental health needs of children and young people across the borough. It focuses on improving resilience across all schools and training teaching staff to ensure they meet the mental health and wellbeing needs of the most vulnerable children and young people.
The Local Government Chronicle (LGC) award recognises the success of councils that adopt a strategic approach to meeting the needs of children and young people who need help and protection, including providing early intervention.
In Cheshire East, nearly 12,500 children and young people (which is 13 per cent of the population aged 0-24) are estimated to have a mental health disorder. It is also estimated that 20 young people injure themselves every day and that five have suicidal thoughts.
An independent evaluation of the first phase of the project – which took place in six schools: Middlewich High School; Ruskin High and Oakfield Lodge in Crewe; Eaton Bank Academy in Congleton; The Macclesfield Academy and Poynton High – was undertaken by Salford University.
It demonstrated that there was a reduction in referrals to specialist mental health services by participating schools.
Councillor Jos Saunders, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for children and families, said: “The mental health and wellbeing of children and young people is vitally important to a good experience of childhood and determining long-term health into adulthood.
“The scale of our ambition in this area knows no bounds and I am so proud of the strength of our relationship with schools, the health service and other key agencies.
“I am delighted that, through an innovative and collaborative approach with schools, the project has shown tangible improvements in the mental wellbeing of children and young people across the borough.”
Keith Simpson, the strategic lead for the project and headteacher of Middlewich High School, said: “Middlewich High School is proud to be the lead school for this innovative and exciting project. Since its launch, we have already had an excellent impact on transforming the way the education, health and voluntary sectors work collaboratively together. Our vision is for all Cheshire East’s young people to thrive in our increasingly complex society.
“By 2020, the overall aim of the Emotionally Healthy Schools programme is that educational settings from 0-21 are equipped to build character and support the emotional heath of their populations, thereby reducing the number of young people who need help from other services. This work is already receiving national interest and the model is being viewed by other local authorities to replicate its vision.”
One young person, who preferred to remain anonymous, said: “More than anything else in the world, every teenager just wants to feel ‘normal’ so that they can fit in. The Emotionally Healthy Schools project has taught us that there is no such thing as ‘normal’ as everyone is different and we all think and feel in different ways.”
The LGC awards will be held in London on March 21, 2018.