May 18, 2023
Our Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme trains young people as Wellbeing Ambassadors to develop their coaching skills and support their peers within their school or other educational setting, to reduce the risk of Mental Health Problems in young people now and in later life.
Having established Worth-it Projects Ltd in 2011 to develop and deliver prevention programmes directly with young people, Liz Robson-Kelly, CEO of Worth-it Positive Education CIC, studied a Masters in Coaching Psychology in 2014, focusing on how coaching can prevent mental health problems in young people. This led her to study further MSc modules in Positive Psychology in 2016, contributing to the development of Worth-it’s early prevention work.
Working with schools to develop whole-school approaches to wellbeing and positive mental health and partnering with several local authority and health commissioners to design bespoke, early intervention, train-the-trainer programmes, fed into the development of our Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme, which is based on the SEARCH Framework for wellbeing by Waters and Loton (2019)(1).
Unfortunately, yes. One in eight children have a diagnosable mental health disorder – that’s roughly three children in every classroom (2). One in six young people aged 16-24 have symptoms of a common mental disorder, such as depression or an anxiety disorder (3) and half of all mental health problems manifest by the age of 14, with 75% by age 24 (4). 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 (5).
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.
Everyone needs someone to talk to. But not everyone has someone. The Wellbeing Ambassadors are trained to offer informal one-to-one peer support as well as set up drop-in sessions and run campaigns to open discussions around mental health and reduce any stigma surrounding mental health problems.
Everything we do has been inspired by and co-produced by young people. Our Wellbeing Ambassadors programme evolved into what is today from projects we’ve run in many different schools.
The Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme is evidence-based and designed 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.
The skills we help young people to learn to fall into 3 personal resource categories:
Developing these skills helps young people to:
This diagram represents how these areas are developed and the impact to the ambassadors themselves, the peers they support and the whole school community.
In 2015, we received funding from Leicestershire Borough Council to run focus groups and coach students to run peer coaching sessions within their settings. The young people absolutely loved the programme and were eager to coach their younger peers, but schools and settings struggled to get it off the ground due to various reasons such as timetable clashes between year groups. The main successes that came from these pilot projects were the pop-up wellbeing clubs, campaigns and informal mentoring that the coaches had set up to support their peers.
Jump forward a few years and, in 2018, Worth-it was commissioned to deliver a train the trainer programme in partnership with Bedford Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and local schools. Key members of staff, such as CAMHS school link and school nurses, were trained to train peer mentors within schools. You can read more about this programme here. The impacts of this project were not just on the Wellbeing Ambassadors or their younger peers – both groups gained so much from the peer support – but they were school-wide.
“I have learned that when you feel down just take a deep breath and just keep calm, there is always someone to talk to.”
“The best moment was watching a year 7 pupil talking about the programme to a group of people she didn’t know!”
We were commissioned, in 2019, to deliver a Mental Health Champions (MHC) Programme across 10 settings in York. This was also a train the trainer programme, which was managed and coordinated by a trained (by Worth-it) MHC Coordinator within each setting and supported by School Wellbeing Service Workers and other trained colleagues. The MHC Coordinators and the student MHCs were overwhelmingly positive in their feedback about the programme and the impact it was having on them as individuals, their peers and the culture of their schools as a whole. You can find out more about the project by clicking here.
“It has given a solid and permanent base for mental health support.”
“On each campaign completed, there is a wider conversation on mental health across college. The MHCs are now becoming a known part of the college environment.”
The feedback we gained from both these programmes and from other schools who are running our Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme is invaluable. The shape of the Wellbeing Ambassadors programme today is based on our in-depth knowledge of Positive Psychology within Education, our past experiences of running the programme, the feedback we’ve gained and continue to gain from coordinator/facilitators and, most importantly, the young people themselves.
To find how develop a Wellbeing or Mental Health Ambassadors programme in your school or setting download our free cheatsheet.
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