July 27, 2022
The City of York Council commissioned Worth-it Positive Education CIC to work in partnership with the School Wellbeing Service to develop a peer support programme, to provide young person led early intervention and prevention within different settings including schools and colleges.
This project was known as Mental Health Champions (MHC) and was developed and delivered in schools across York. This article provides a case study of effective practice in early intervention and prevention.
In 2018, it was identified that York would benefit from the provision of youth-led, peer support to improve young people’s wellbeing, develop mental health and provide early prevention of mental health problems. This was supported by the York City Council Youth Council who were included in programme development and procurement. The programme was very voice-led, even in the procurement stages: we pitched to a panel that included the young people who had developed the brief and specification which went to tender.
The MHC Programme sought to train young people to provide positive support to peers and help them learn ways to improve wellbeing through developing tools for healthy minds.
Worth-it Positive Education CIC was commissioned to deliver training to trainers – who would be the Mental Health Champion Coordinators – from eight Secondary Schools and two Further Education Colleges to enable MHC coordinators to return to their settings and train young people to provide support to their peers in the shape of informal intervention, lunchtime drop-ins and campaigns.
We combined coaching psychology and positive psychology techniques to produce a Mental Health Champions programme. This included 4 days of training for the MHC facilitators by our consultants, creation of resources for MHC coordinators and student MHCs. Once trained, the MHC coordinators delivered the programme in their own settings, using the coaching skills they’d learned and the resources we supplied.
The programme was managed and coordinated by a trained MHC Coordinator within each setting and supported by School Wellbeing Service Workers and other trained colleagues.
A group of young people were recruited in each setting to attend a three-day MHC training course led by the setting’s MHC coordinator. During this course, the student Mental Health Champions received coaching around skills and tools that develop healthy minds and how to run mental health campaigns. The aim was that the MHCs would design and run their own campaigns to meet the needs of their peers and be appropriate for their setting. These projects would focus on raising awareness of mental health and signposting to support in their settings.
MHC Programme Coordinators and student MHCs were invited to complete written end of programme feedback evaluations.
The Mental Health Champions ran and developed initiatives in their schools and settings to increase awareness of mental health and where support could be found, reduce any stigma around discussion of mental health and help their peers understand the importance of wellbeing.
For example, in one school the MHCs were involved in “creating a quiet safe space for students; talking in year group assemblies, bake sales; creating posters and cards; mentoring for younger students who are struggling.”
In another setting, the MHCs organised a college-wide awareness day of random acts of kindness: “where we created a sort of 'peg' system where positive messages were written on pegs and distributed around the college, amongst many other activities. We also set up a public living room to provide a safe and calm environment for students.”
Following the programme, the Mental Health Champions were asked what impacts the Mental Health Champions Programme had, what they appreciated about the programme, what their biggest achievements and successes were [from the MHC programme] and how other students had benefitted. Their responses were overwhelmingly positive:
Explore these impacts in greater detail by downloading our Wellbeing Ambassadors Impact Report.
The Mental Health Coordinators were asked the same questions as the student MHCs. Again, there was an overwhelmingly positive response. Across all settings, the implementation of campaigns, projects and support by the MHCs had a school-wide impact, indicating a major culture shift in the way schools embrace discussions around mental health and wellbeing.
The students who had been trained as Wellbeing Ambassadors also found the experience a positive one:
The Programme Coordinators were asked, what impacts have you noticed the programme having so far on the younger Peers who received support?
The MHC programme lead to the development of our Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme. If you are interested in running a Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme in your school or setting go to our Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme page to find out more and get in touch. If you would like to train your team to develop wellbeing strategies with children and young people our Wellbeing Toolkit Course provides a whole range of evidence based wellbeing tools and strategies.
The purpose of an early intervention approach is to work in partnership to improve outcomes for children, young people and families. The aim is to address problems at the earliest opportunity before they escalate and help to prevent long-term poor outcomes.
Our approach to early intervention is to prevent the development of mental health problems through promoting strategies that improve mental wellbeing and, in doing so, protect against mental illness. All our work helps children and young people move up the mental health spectrum towards flourishing.
This Example is currently being worked on. Be sure to check back soon!
Feel free to ask our team about this project for more information or return to our Examples page to learn about other great results our schools and settings are seeing.