Pupils are given a mind’s eye view of mental health

Pupils Isla and Jack, both three, emerge from the inflatable brain
Pupils Isla and Jack, both three, emerge from the inflatable brain

Wigan primary school pupils got a lesson in how to look after their own minds with a unique interactive experience thanks to a mental health team.

Sacred Heart Junior and Infant School played host to Healthy Mind UK and their giant “brain dome”, as part of its Be You initiative.

The project’s founders, siblings Andy Cameron and Kerry Barr, have combined their individual expertise into an interactive experience, consisting of an 8ft inflatable brain, which teaches primary school children about the different parts of the brain, what they are used for and how each one affects mental health.

Taking the scheme to the school in Springfield Road, Andy said: “They loved it, they had so much fun. It’s all about learning, but at the same time it’s fun and engaging for the kids. It’s quite a tough topic to teach so this helps break those barriers.”

Andy, 31, co-founded Healthy Mind UK after noticing a lot of children growing up with mental health issues.

“We looked at what was being done in terms of intervention,” he said. “We realised that they weren’t being given the tools to combat mental health issues, because it’s a tough subject to teach them about.

“I’ve been teaching for about 12 years, and have worked with a lot of kids with mental health issues.

“Every time I was dealing with a child, I was thinking about what could be done to help. I found a lot of things were reactive, not proactive, and wasn’t giving them the knowledge to deal with it before it became a bigger problem.”

This led Andy and Kerry to get their thinking caps on and figure out a way to teach young people about such a complex subject. The end result is a three-part course, delivered to children at their schools, and involving the giant inflatable brain which can be explored both inside and out.

“We wanted something to be fun and engaging and to make it normal for them to start thinking about their own mental health,” said Andy.

“We wanted the wow factor and something exciting. The idea is for children to go inside and learn about the brain in a way that will stick in their mind and have a much more long-lasting impact.”

Andy and Kerry are inviting more Wigan primary schools to get involved with their work and later this year will be launching Be You in secondary schools.