North East school children receive mental health awareness lessons

By Kris Jepson

School children in the North East are receiving special lessons designed to educate them and raise awareness of mental health issues.

The NHS Trailblazer programme has run in a number of primary and secondary schools in Northumberland and South Tyneside and Stockton has been approved for sessions to be delivered at Billingham secondary schools by January 2021.

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The sessions are interactive and engage with the children by using a character called Resilient Ralph.

The children discuss what emotions Ralph may feel during the day and then discuss how he could overcome those difficult feelings, allowing them to relate to his situation and learn about their own mental health.

The mental health support teams deliver training sessions to teachers, who can then relay the sessions to the children.

Mental Health sessions Credit: ITV News

One teacher from South Tyneside, Paula Wetherelt, told ITV News "It’s equipping the staff with the confidence to be able to deal on a daily basis with any problems that might come up in the classroom and then getting in really, really quick to give the children strategies around resilience, and problem solving to help them face any adversities that they may come across."

We look at how those events might have affected Ralph, how that might make Ralph feel, what might Ralph be thinking, what are the things that we can do, or suggest to Ralph that might make him feel a little bit better or might be able to help him to cope with a difficult situation that he’s faced.

Carl Sketchley, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust
Mental Health sessions Credit: ITV News

Another similar project, which is independently run by a new group called Mental Health Rocks, has started to deliver sessions to schools in Northumberland.

The lessons are engaging and fun for the children and empower them to make their own decisions when it comes to their mental wellbeing.

The group is funded by local businesses, meaning schools do not have to pay for the 90 minute sessions.

Mental Health sessions Credit: ITV News

One teacher from Morpeth, Robyn Provett, told ITV News :"It gives them a chance to talk about how they’re feeling and time to think about why they’re feeling that way and what they can do to help themselves and move on, and it’s having somebody there to to take them away and spend that time with them if they need it."

The group said it has been flooded with offers of support from parents, teaching staff and fellow professionals working with children in schools and has over 800 schools signed up for workshops.

Our whole session is focused on giving the children the felt experience, because once they’ve got that felt experience, then they’ve got it then and it becomes more relatable for them to look forward and to keep reminding them of how amazing their mental health is and how it helps them to thrive.

Leanne MacDonald, Mental Health Rocks