Children are leading the way to nurture good mental health across a multi-academy trust. Teamed with a growing army of 110 mental health first aiders amongst the staff so far, Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust has a keen focus on looking after the mental health of children and adults alike.

This Children’s Mental Health Week (6 – 12 February 2023) is focusing on the theme Let’s Connect – one of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing (Give, Connect, Learn, Take Notice and Be Active), which the Trust has adopted as part of its proactive strategy to nurture positive mental health on a daily basis.

The Trust, which covers East Durham, South Tyneside and Sunderland, looks after 30 primary and secondary schools and now has 110 trained mental health first aiders across its different sites.

Louise Swailes, mental health co-ordinator at Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust, said: “During Children’s Mental Health Week, we are reminded of the importance of looking after our mental health on a daily basis.

We all have mental health and it is equally as important as our physical health, as it impacts all areas of our lives including our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. Here at BCCET, we have made a commitment to support the wellbeing of our staff and students through a whole Trust approach to embedding positive mental health across its culture and ethos. This holistic approach is central to our vision and values and is interwoven through our curriculum, spirituality and everyday interactions.

We have a very strong tiered mental health support system in our schools with students, teaching assistants, teachers and SLT trained in mental health support as well as external agencies delivering counselling sessions in school, working with small groups and whole classes as well as parents. We now have 110 staff members trained through MHFA England as Mental Health First Aiders across the Trust – from CEO level as our CEO Brendan Tapping is also a trained MHFA – and this number will grow as we continue to roll out the training.

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Case Study School – St John Bosco Catholic Primary School, Sunderland

I’ve got time to talk’ is the key message the wellbeing champion team wants to get across to other children at St John Bosco Catholic Primary School.

If you ask someone how they are, you need to make sure you have the time to listen to the answer and that’s the message we try and get across in school,” said Phil Roddy, mental health lead at the Sunderland school.

The wellbeing champion team, which comprises eight children from across Key Stage Two (KS2), was set up in October.

It’s relatively new but we have been working on developing our mental health strategy,” said Mr Roddy, who is also the school’s deputy headteacher.

Since I took on the role of mental health lead at the school last January, I have become even more invested in it. I have also completed the mental health first aid training.

The children are just as passionate about taking care of everyone’s mental health in school and have set up a mental health first aid box which is kept in the designated Wellbeing Headquarters. It contains a large teddy bear, squishy sensory toys, flashcards with different breathing techniques on them and ways to talk about their emotions.

The children also wear their own mental health first aid badges with pride.

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