£10m HeadStart Kent programme to prevent emotional and mental health issues in young people

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Children and young people in Kent are less likely to have emotional or mental health problems as they grow into adults thanks to a programme funded by £10m from The BIG Lottery.

HeadStart Kent is a preventative programme for 10-16 year olds in schools, aimed at improving their emotional resilience so they will be less likely to suffer from emotional and mental health issues.

Last Tuesday (October 17) hundreds of stakeholders gathered at the Kent Showground, Detling, for the HeadStart Kent County Stakeholder Event: Every Conversation Counts, to hear more about HeadStart Kent and celebrate the launch of the programme’s new website, known as the Kent Resilience Hub.

£10m HeadStart Kent programme to prevent emotional and mental health issues in young people

Roger Gough, cabinet member for children, young people and education, speaks at the stakeholder event

The key message of the day was that young people’s mental health is not the responsibility of one person or one organisation, it is everyone’s responsibility and it is vital services work together.

Two young people who have been involved in HeadStart Kent since its launch last year spoke at the gathering. Jenn Power, 15, said: “HeadStart Kent has allowed me to become more resilient and I’ve made some of my closest friends through the events I’ve attended. Well-being is individual, everyone has different needs and it is not one-size fits all.”

Sarah Thorny, HeadStart Kent’s resilience hub development officer, talked the audience through the new website, which contains videos and other resources and offers advice on issues such as how a young person can start a conversation with a trusted adult about their mental health.

There are also links to other organisations, including Childline, for young people with more urgent needs.

Roger Gough, cabinet member for children, young people and education, told the event that more than half of adults with a mental health disorder had started exhibiting symptoms by the age of 14, demonstrating how vital it is to intervene at an early age. He said: “Mental health problems, if not prevented or treated, can be the cause of the lifelong suffering of those individuals impacted by it, and their families.

£10m HeadStart Kent programme to prevent emotional and mental health issues in young people

Jonathan Carr-West from the Local Government Information Unit welcomed people and chaired the event

“Nationally, despite all our efforts over many years, the prevalence of young people with mental health problems has been growing.

“However, I know that by all of us joining with many others across schools and communities, using the outcomes and learning from the HeadStart Kent programme, we can stop this trend and begin to reverse it.

“The welfare of children and young people across this county is the council’s top priority – and a key element of this is the delivery of HeadStart Kent.

“As a preventative programme, HeadStart Kent will work with schools to help young people to develop their own resilience to cope with the everyday pressures they may face throughout their lives. Young people will be equipped with the skills and confidence to navigate their own way to support when they need to.

“We also want to ensure that those working in schools and local communities have the information, skills and resources to be able to respond to young people – early and effectively.

“HeadStart Kent is promoting the message that building resilience is everyone’s business and that if a young person needs help then every conversation counts.”

The HeadStart Kent programme was created with young people’s involvement and schools are asked to regularly evaluate the impact the programme is having on their pupils.

HeadStart Kent is currently operating in Swale, Gravesham, Ashford, Canterbury and Shepway. During 2018 it will be rolled out in Maidstone and Thanet and in 2019 it will arrive in Dover and Tonbridge and Malling.

Guests at Tuesday’s event were told about the way professionals can assess a child’s resilience levels by encouraging them to fill out an action plan (details here http://content.iriss.org.uk/fosteringresilience/assessing.html) and they found out about plans to introduce a number of initiatives including mindfulness training and online counselling.

The BIG Lottery Fund, which gives out £13m of National Lottery money every week to support community work, is giving up to £10m each to six HeadStart programmes throughout the UK.

Find out more about HeadStart Kent, view videos made by young people and see some of the resources available to young people, their families, schools and the community at the new Kent Resilience Hub: www.headstartkent.org.uk


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