Children and young people’s mental health programme celebrates record year

Edge Hill University’s Tackling the blues mentors at Ormskirk High

The award-winning children’s mental health programme, Tackling the Blues, is celebrating a milestone year after supporting a record number of new children and young people across the North West. 

The sport, art and education-based mental health awareness programme, delivered by Edge Hill University in partnership with Everton in the Community and Tate Liverpool, has successfully engaged with more than 1,500 children and young people across 20 schools in Merseyside and West Lancashire over the past 12 months. 

Founded in 2015, Tackling the Blues is delivered by staff and students from the Department of Sport and Physical Activity and the Faculty of Education at Edge Hill University and is designed to improve the mental health literacy of children and young people aged six to 16 who are experiencing, or at risk of developing, mental illness.  

Professor of Sport and Physical Activity, Andy Smith, and Dr Helen O’Keeffe from the Faculty of Education, both lead on the project at Edge Hill.  

Prof Smith said: “To have reached a record number of new children and young people, despite the challenges the past year has presented, bears testament to the hard work and dedication of the Tackling the Blues team. Our student mentors and our partner schools have worked tirelessly to ensure that we can continue to empower the next generation with the knowledge and skills needed to improve their mental health literacy.” 

Dr O’Keeffe added: “Thanks to the efforts of the Tackling the Blues team, more than 1,500 children and young people have joined us on the journey to break the stigma around mental health. We’re looking forward to the future and will be building on the successes of the last 12 months to reach even more children and young people through our growing range of delivery models.” 

Figures for the last academic year also revealed that more than 600 Edge Hill students have engaged directly with the programme through mentoring and mental health training opportunities. More than 500 students received Ambassador of Hope training, delivered by national mental health charity Chasing the Stigma, which focuses on how to talk about mental health and illness, how to effectively find help and signpost using the Hub of Hope resources and what to do in a mental health emergency. 

The past year also saw more than 500 students engage with external artists and Everton in the Community staff. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic putting a stop to in-person mentoring sessions, Edge Hill’s student mentors launched a series of online bitesize lessons, called BLUES, to help teachers support children and young people’s mental health during lockdown. 

Jack Mullineux, Tackling the Blues Lead Coordinator at Everton in the Community (EitC), said: “Tackling the Blues has grown significantly during the last 12 months with the addition of an arts strand, complimenting the current sports strand which has been developed by EitC.  

“Throughout the year, the programme continued to support children and young people with an online and in-person approach which was delivered by mentors from Edge Hill.  This approach has enabled the programme to expand its reach and support more school groups and children and young people throughout primary and secondary schools in Merseyside and West Lancashire. Due to the expansion of the programme, additional student opportunities will be available in a lead and support mentoring capacity.” 

Alison Jones, Programme Manager, Public & Community Learning at Tate Liverpool, said: “It has been wonderful to be able to use art to connect with so many young people over the last year and help them unlock their creativity to improve their mental health literacy. The development of the online sessions during COVID-19 also highlight the importance of being able to access these resources when times get tough and the number of children and young people engaging in the programme is a testament to that.” 

The programme received a £527,000 funding award from the Office for Students and Research England in 2020/2021, in recognition of the vital impact it has had on the student experience and the benefits it brings to students, graduates and external partners through involvement in knowledge exchange activities. 

Supported by funding from the Office for Students, Research England and the Premier League Charitable Fund, Tackling the Blues uses a student focussed model to provide innovative ways in engaging students in knowledge exchange to improve their knowledge, understanding and experiences of mental health in education and local communities.   

If you are interested in finding out more about Tackling the Blues or are a student from the Faculty of Education or the Department of Sport and Physical Activity who is interested in participating as a mentor in the 2021/2022 academic year are encouraged to visit the new Tackling the Blues website to find out more informationor visit @TacklingBlues on Twitter.