Mental health scheme launched in Wigan schools

Staff and pupils from St Wilfrids School, who are already taking part in the pioneering scheme
Staff and pupils from St Wilfrids School, who are already taking part in the pioneering scheme

Schools and colleges across the borough will receive support for pupils’ mental health as a ground-breaking programme is expanded.

Nine education venues in Wigan and Leigh will be part of the next phase of the Greater Manchester Mentally Healthy Schools and College programme alongside the five already taking part.

The programme, commissioned by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, is about to enter its third phase and will ensure young people in the borough ranging from primary school youngsters to those doing post A-level qualifications will get mental health support.

Four high schools, three primary schools and two colleges in the borough will join the programme.

Warren Heppolette, executive lead for strategy and system development at Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “Anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions affect young people’s learning, their happiness and their future prospects.

“We know also that schools and colleges are some of the best places to address this, provide young people with the skills, knowledge and confidence to overcome these problems and prevent problems from getting worse.

“This expansion means more children and young people can build the necessary skills to look after their own wellbeing and to support their peers.”

The programme provides training for staff and students to become mental health champions, tuition for school employees to spot the signs and symptoms of mental illness and one-to-one support for vulnerable youngsters.

Schools in the scheme also work with athlete mentors to build resilience and coping strategies and use healthy lifestyles to prevent stress and anxiety.

Senior leaders also receive specialist support to ensure mental health and wellbeing strategies are established across the whole school.

The borough institutions joining the programme are: St Mary’s RC High School in Astley, St Peter’s RC High School in Orrell, Hindley High School, Golborne High School, Chowbent

Primary School in Atherton, Leigh St Peter’s Primary School, Leigh St Mary’s Primary School, St John Rigby College and Wigan and Leigh College.

The five schools already involved in the existing two phases are Bedford Hall Methodist Primary School, Oakfield High School and College, Shevington High School, St Luke’s CE Primary School and St Wilfrid’s CE Primary School.

Participants are selected by local authority education teams, health and social care commissioners and local mental health and wellbeing teams.

So far, 175 staff have received mental health first aid training and more than 150 pupils across the region have become mental health champions.

Primary school youngsters said they felt confident in their new roles supporting their peers while 93 per cent of secondary school pupils said they now knew more about wellbeing and mental illness.

The programme is being provided by a consortium of Alliance for Learning, the Youth Sports Trust, charities 42nd Street and Place2Be and children and adults’ mental health services.

The project is part of a £134m action plan which was announced in 2017 to transform mental health in Greater Manchester.

It is hoped that mental and physical illnesses will eventually be put on an equal footing and no child requiring mental health support will be turned away.