A question you may be asking do you really need Wellbeing Ambassadors in your school? The short answer is YES, of course, your school does (but we are biased!) So, you can stop reading this article now and go and order the Wellbeing Ambassadors programme!

Only joking!

This article explores several reasons why a Wellbeing Ambassadors programme will help increase the capacity to support pupil mental health and how it will benefit the work you are doing in developing whole school mental health and wellbeing.

What is a Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme?

The Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme is a targeted peer-to-peer support intervention, underpinned by positive psychology, designed to reduce the risk of mental health problems in young people now and in later life. The programme was co-produced with young people and professionals, such as teachers and CAMHs and early help practitioners; it uses coaching techniques to train young people to become Wellbeing Ambassadors and support their peers within schools or other educational settings.

The Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme is a blended early intervention and positive outcomes initiative: it equips young people with the resources and skills to protect their mental health. It is a young person-led approach which helps young people build a personal resource toolkit to develop their mental wellbeing and resilience and support their peers to do the same: it’s preventive, proactive and pre-emptive rather than reactive and responsive (crisis driven).

The Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme helps to normalise conversations about mental wellbeing – young people learn positive strategies from peers, as well as having an opportunity to talk about worries, concerns and things that might be bothering them, or preventing them from speaking to an adult or accessing specialist services.

Why are peer-to-peer programmes such as the Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme so important?

One in eight children have a diagnosable mental health disorder – that’s roughly three children in every classroom 1. One in six young people aged 16-24 have symptoms of a common mental disorder, such as depression or an anxiety disorder 2 and half of all mental health problems manifest by the age of 14, with 75% by age 24 3. In 2017, suicide was the most common cause of death for both boys (16.2% of all deaths) and girls (13.3%) aged between 5 and 19 4.

According to children’s charity, Barnardo’s, “Stress, depression and loneliness are among mental health challenges young people are continuing to face as the UK recovers from the health crisis…the Covid-19 pandemic could leave a lasting “legacy of anxiety and poor mental health among young people”. Barnardo’s has identified that we “need a radically different approach to improving outcomes for the ‘lockdown generation’ – including longer term thinking and funding, with a strong focus on stepping in early to support children and young people before they reach crisis point.” 5 

Often young people seek support too late: when they’re in crisis. Developing skills before crisis hits is much more effective. We want young people to be flourishing – feeling good and functioning well. Anyone who isn’t flourishing is at risk of developing mental health problems.

“This was an additional layer of support available to the students and peer on peer is always the best!”

Schools are about so much more than academic success, but with teachers and other school staff under so much pressure, it can be hard to implement the extra pastoral support that young people require. We have designed our Wellbeing Ambassadors programme with this in mind, to train young people to support each other and recognise when they need to ask for more support, thus reducing the amount of time teachers spend dealing with low-level issues.

According to the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, in a class of 30 15-year-olds, four are likely to have a diagnosable mental health problem, one young person may have lost a parent, seven may have been bullied and five may be self-harming. It’s vital that young people know where they can access support.

Government Recommendations and Guidelines for Peer Support Interventions in Schools

The UK government in the children and young people's mental health transformation plan recommend that positive peer support and peer relationships are key ways to increase capacities for mental health and wellbeing amongst children and young people. Peer-to-peer interventions can work in cases when the child or the young person doesn't want to or won't engage in an intervention or support.

Supporting the young person vicariously through supporting their peer group around them can help the peers lead by example, for example teaching the peer group effective strategies for positive mental health and wellbeing will indirectly benefit the young person or child by increasing the quality of the interactions the peers have with the targeted young person.

Another strategy to increase engagement for targeted cohorts is to work with the young person and a friend that will help the other young person engage in the support that is available they both can benefit from the intervention but the friend can act as a role model and encourage the peer to access targeted support. Working with peer groups can be more of a long-term strategy but in some cases, the power of friendship and the power of positive peer groups can be an effective intervention.

The UK government champions and recommends peer-to-peer support as a helpful approach that can prevent mental health problems developing. Public health England's 8 principles for whole school mental health and the SMHL DfE recommended learning outcomes also suggest that pupil voice led programmes are an integral part of supporting pupil mental health. The NICE guidelines on Social, emotional and mental wellbeing in primary and secondary education also recommend implementing peer-led programmes as part of a whole school approach.

How do you know this programme improves mental health and wellbeing?

The programme has been created with and for children and young people, drawing upon evidence-based approaches to improving wellbeing and preventing mental health problems.

The programme has been created by psychologists and developed from direct partnership work with CAMHS, and provision for mental health support – the Link Programme and Mental Health Support Teams, which are programmes Worth-it piloted in Bedford and York  that are now being rolled out nationally. Most importantly, feedback from young people is that our Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme is effective and helps them.

We created this diagram to explain the impact of the Wellbeing Ambassdors programme for the ambassadors themselves, their peers and the wider school community.


Download our FREE Impact Report to gain a more in-depth understanding of the impacts of the wellbeing ambassador programme on young people, schools and settings.

Evidence for Mental Health and Wellbeing Awards for your School

Are you part of a school community interested in promoting mental health and wellbeing? Our Wellbeing Ambassadors programme can help showcase your effective practices and earn recognition for your efforts. As participants, your school has the chance to become a spotlight school and we'll share your work with other programme facilitators and on our website to serve as evidence for mental health or wellbeing award criteria, or to share with Ofsted, governors and parents. By joining the programme we can help you demonstrate that your voice-led early intervention programmes are delivering results for mental health in your school.

Saves you time and energy creating a programme.

Are you a school struggling to create your own peer-support intervention? While resources you find online may be helpful, our ready-made train-the-trainer toolkit can save you a significant amount of time and alleviate the stress of researching, prepping, and planning your own programme. Our programme has been designed for your staff to pick up quickly, with just half a day of training, and feel confident in delivering it to your pupils.

When your staff become facilitators they learn how to deliver this programme to the children and young people they work with.

They will learn how to

  • Use a toolkit of positive psychology based wellbeing resources that meet the needs of children or young people
  • Deliver our Wellbeing Ambassador coaching-based training workshop for either children or young people
  • Provide ongoing support to continue to motivate and empower children young people to develop and lead their own peer-to-peer support programmes

Professional Development Opportunity

When your staff are given the opportunity to become Wellbeing Ambassador Programme facilitators it provides a valuable opportunity for their professional development in the field of mental wellbeing. This is an increasingly important area for schools to be able to demonstrate they can support. It’s an excellent opportunity to positively affect the outcomes of your students, rather than dealing with negative incidents which may come your way on a day-to-day basis.

As well as gaining an insight into Positive Psychology and learning how to train young people in essential skills for wellbeing, staff find the programme an extremely rewarding project to be a part of as they young people grow and develop their strengths and work to support each other. It’s also an impressive addition to your staff CV's or professional development file. Staff that take part will be involved in something which could be developed into a whole school initiative and facilitate children or young people to run campaigns.

Staff involved become experts, along with your students and they learn from each other strengthening staff and student relationships.

Facilitators report that running the programme is lots of fun and– it could be the best thing you’ve ever been involved in!

Quote a from Facilitator
“The opportunity to work in a positive, exciting way with students. To be part of something new and different. To be able to promote positive mental wellbeing amongst college students and staff!”
“The privilege of working with kind, selfless and hard working young people and proudly being their voice and champion. Learning new skill sand tools to share across the school community that will continue to give overt he school years. Being part of a hardworking and passionate team, striving for positive change and working at reducing the stigma of mental health that we still experience today.”

Embedding a sustainable approach

Our aim is that schools implement the Wellbeing Ambassadors programme and integrate it into school ethos over multiple school years. To support this the programme is accessible for an initial period of three years.

Three-year access provides schools and settings with the opportunity to truly develop a consistent peer-to-peer support intervention over time, so it becomes truly embedded in your setting and an integral part of targeted support for school mental health.

As your programme evolves you can train up several cohorts of students to become ambassadors. These ambassadors then can support you to recruit and train cohorts of peers in order to embed a culture of wellbeing across the school. You can run the ambassadors programme as many times as you like to as many students as you like as long as you retain your licence.

The aim of the programme is to create a generation of wellbeing ambassadors who are able to support their peers and promote positive mental health throughout the school community even if some of your first cohort of ambassadors leave during the three-year period.

We have priced our programme so you pay once to access the programme for three years. This is to encourage consistency and a long-term strategic use of the programme. This makes the upfront investment of £995 +VAT for secondary or £895+VAT for primary much a more cost-effective longer-term investment than bringing external or different organisations into your school or setting every year?

What are the benefits to schools in using the programme?

The beauty of the programme is that every school or setting is slightly different, and the programme is designed to support you meet the needs of your school/setting and young people.

Being trained as a Wellbeing Ambassador, develops a young person’s own wellbeing as well as their ability to feel confident and safe to support their peers.

Students who are trained as Wellbeing Ambassadors learn to become better communicators, better listeners, and develop interpersonal skills. They practise being supportive and non-judgemental and are trained to empower others as well as feeling empowered themselves.

These transferable skills can stay with Wellbeing Ambassadors for life and help them build positive relationships and protect their own mental health.

Examples of benefits gained by Ambassadors include

Wellbeing Ambassadors learn how to initiate and run campaigns. Being a Wellbeing Ambassador boosts self-esteem and demonstrates empathy, reliability, compassion,and trustworthiness, and, for those who run initiatives, leadership skills. The young people will be able to add this experience and knowledge to their university applications and their CVs.

Examples of Wellbeing Ambassadors projects in schools

We have written up extensive case studies of how the programme has worked in three different schools you can access them here

  1. Dame Alice Owens - Focused on supporting Year 7 Transition
  2. Rainey Endowed - Focused on supporting SEN pupils belong at school
  3. Burley Oaks Primary - Focused on mental health awareness
  4. Bedfordshire CAMHS Provided a train-the-trainer programme for 11 secondary schools across Bedfordshire

Follow this link to find out more about our examples of effective practice in our free downloadable impact report.

Funding the wellbeing ambassadors programme

We find schools often use pupil premium to pay for the Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme. Other funding may be available such as covid catch-up, local authority funding or even local charities. This article helps you find out more about funding and also how to propose the programme to your school leadership team.

The Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme is a fantastic way for schools to provide students with the skills and knowledge they need to create a safe and supportive environment. It encourages peer-to-peer support, which helps students build resilience and develop key life skills such as communication and positive relationships essential for wellbeing. Find our more and join the Wellbeing Ambassadors programme here.

References:

1. NHS Digital (2018) ‘Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2017’ Available here Based on 12.8% of 5 to 19 year olds being identified as having a diagnosable mental health condition.

2. NHS Digital (2017) Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey: Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, England, 2014. Available here

3. Kessler RC et al. (2005). ‘Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication’.

4. Office for National Statistics (2017) ‘Deaths registered in England and Wales’ Available here

5. CYP Now article Available here

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