Teens become mental health ambassadors

A pair of teenagers are to help their fellow pupils with mental health issues.

Wednesday, 27th July 2016, 8:00 am
Sixth form students Chloe Manuel and Phoebe Hedley either side of former government mental health champion Natasha Devon. With them are (left to right) Paula Thompson, Principal of St Benedict Biscop Academy, Chris Shaw, Assistant Head Teacher of Whitburn Academy and Alan Hardie, Principal, Whitburn Academy.

Sixth formers Chloe Manuel and Phoebe Hedley, have been appointed the mental health ambassadors at Whitburn CE Academy.

The girls both spoke at the first conference in the North East to address mental health in the region’s schools.

Chloe and Phoebe received wide acclaim from the 200-strong delegates at Mental Health Issues Amongst School Children in the North East, an event co-ordinated by the Prince Bishops Teaching School Alliance, led by Benedict Biscop Church of England Academy, Sunderland and Whitburn Church of England Academy, South Tyneside.

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Both pupils addressed delegates - including key note speaker, Natasha Devon MBE, who was outspoken during her brief period as the government’s first mental health champion - on the spiralling levels of anxiety, stress and depression being detected amongst primary and secondary school students.

According to charity Young Minds, three children in every classroom have a diagnosed mental illness and one in 10 will develop an eating disorder before their 25th birthday.

Hospitalisations from self-harm and eating disorders have doubled in the past three years and in some parts of the country rates of childhood depression, anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders are up by 600%.

Chloe, said: “The conference was very inspiring and along with highlighting the extent of mental health issues there was a tangible desire from all who attended to go back to their schools and look at initiatives and strategies that could be put in place to tackle the problem.

“It is something that Phoebe and myself are very passionate about and we are determined to come up with some practical solutions.”

Phoebe, said: “It is vitally important to look for the early warning signs that indicate that a young person is suffering with anxiety or other condition. To do this means that schools have to become increasingly more mentally aware.

“It is not an easy task but early intervention can prevent pupils suffering years of anxiety and stress.”

Also speaking at the conference were Mick Atkinson, vice chair of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition and head of commissioning at Place2Be and Simon Marshall, Director of Education Services, Sunderland City Council.

A key aim of the conference was for delegates to build relationships with partners in the mental health sector and education that will foster a climate of mentally healthy schools.

Alan Hardie, Principal, Whitburn Academy, said: “My reflection on the conference was that each school needs to have a much more holistic approach to emotional wellbeing.”

Paula Thompson, Principal of Benedict Biscop Academy, said: “It is apparent that we have a ticking time bomb with our youngsters and children from a very young age need to develop emotional resilience to the external pressures they face.”