Children transitioning from primary to secondary school have been learning how to support their own well-being through an initiative delivered through a collaboration of local partner agencies, including leading mental health charity, Action Mental Health.
The move to ‘big school’ can often present many challenges for children, and in response, the Larne and Carrickfergus Locality Planning Group (LPG), part of the Children & Young People’s Strategic Partnership (CYPSP) and the Northern Health and Social Care Trust (NHSCT), offered the mental health promotion project to P7 pupils in the Larne and Carrickfergus areas.
The project, ‘Growing a Healthy, Positive Me,’ is based on Action Mental Health’s Healthy Me programme, which promotes well-being across Northern Ireland’s primary schools and raises awareness of mental health issues among children, their teachers, parents and key contacts.
The initiative aims to improve outcomes for children, young people and families in the area, with mental and emotional well-being identified as a priority.
Action Mental Health’s MensSana teams delivered 30 minute, bitesize ‘Healthy Me’ sessions to P7 classes, online, while they were homeschooling. The sessions led children through the principles of the Five Ways to Well-Being, which are key steps designed to promote overall well-being, and reached almost 200 pupils in nine schools.
The sessions were followed up with an arts and crafts project, in which pupils were asked to design a ‘Tree of Strength’. The Tree of Strength helped to reinforce the positive messages of the online sessions and prompted children to reflect on their own, individual strengths. It also helped to illustrate positive strategies children can use to cope with the challenges they may face in future.
The completed pieces of art were then entered into a competition for a chance to win a monetary prize sponsored by the Larne and Carrickfergus LPG which could be used to purchase Health and Well-Being resources for their schools.
The ‘Growing a Healthy Positive Me’ programme was evaluated as making a very positive impact on the children, who rated it as ‘very good’. One pupil said: “I loved taking time to think about all of the things I can do and the people I can talk to, to help me feel positive about myself and reduce my anxiety.’
A teacher also commented: “The webinar was interactive and very well thought out. Children really loved discussing and drawing the Tree of Strength. It is so relevant during these difficult times of lockdown.’
Kate McDermott, Health & Wellbeing Manager, Northern Health & Social Care Trust commented: “This is a very positive and welcoming initiative aimed at children transitioning from primary to secondary school during these challenging times. It reflects the responses from the Northern Area Parents, Children and Young People Survey 2020 which highlighted the need to address emotional health and resilience of children and young people at a local level”.
Karen Hillis, Service Manager with AMH MensSana commented: “The Growing a Healthy, Positive Me’ was a great initiative for Action Mental Health to be a part of, and it was an excellent example of collaborative working between the partner agencies of the Larne and Carrickfergus Locality Planning Group, Action Mental Health as well as all the schools and children involved.”