An Edge Hill student is highlighting the profound impact of award-winning child mental health programme Tackling the Blues as it gets set to expand.
Summer Cunningham, a student mentor for the sport and arts-based mental health education programme, highlighted how her own contribution has made a difference to children’s lives as the programme expands into Greater Manchester.
As schools continue to respond to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of student mentors who support delivery of the programme will increase from 48 last academic year to more than 80 this year; more than 2,500 pupils have been reached to date.
Summer, a third-year student from Kettering, Northamptonshire, said:
“I remember one of the girls I worked with last year showed a 180 turnaround in self-confidence – she started out incredibly shy and unable to verbalise her answers to questions, to being loud and proud in herself, practically shouting the answers at us. When we had to leave she was so full of gratitude and cried us out the door; that’s when I really reflected and knew that we had made a difference.
“And to be taking part in the programme during the Covid-19 pandemic has really helped me too. I lost a lot of motivation last year so to be doing something useful like this made a huge difference to my own mental health.
“Tackling the Blues has also given me a unique experience to work with respected organisations, promoting mental health and wellbeing directly with children, most from deprived areas, to improve their outcomes. You can visibly see the development of literacy and emotional processing from week to week.”
Tackling the Blues – delivered in partnership between Edge Hill University, Everton in the Community and Tate Liverpool – supports children and young people aged 6-16 who are experiencing, or are at risk of developing, mental illness.
Since its launch in 2015 a significant difference has already been made to many lives, with participating young people across the Liverpool City Region, Lancashire and now Greater Manchester displaying more confidence and less anxiety, with improved literacy and emotional intelligence skills.
Dr Helen O’Keeffe, from the Faculty of Education, and Andy Smith, Professor of Sport and Physical Activity, both lead on the project at Edge Hill.
“The Tackling the Blues project not only makes a vital difference to the children and families we work with who suffer from some of the poorest health and wellbeing in the country, it also makes an important contribution to the student experience, employability, knowledge exchange and research.
“We are delighted that we are in a position to continue to expand this vital work during the current academic year.”
Dr Emma Curd, Tackling the Blues coordinator for Tate Liverpool, vouched for the positive impact the programme also has on student mentors.
“Since meeting Summer in 2019, we have seen her confidence flourish and grow in the classroom. From taking on leadership roles to developing unique and creative activities for young people to engage with, Summer is now an experienced and assured mentor.
“She is particularly skillful in supporting the creation of a safe and creative environment for young people to talk about their feelings and emotions.”
Tackling the Blues is continuing to develop as a result of ongoing funding from the Office for Students, Research England and the Premier League.
A children’s mental health awareness campaign which saw pupils’ drawings of their Blues heroes take centre stage at a Goodison Park matchday has been shortlisted for a national award.
The ‘USM Supports Tackling the Blues’ campaign has been shortlisted in the ‘Integrated Content Campaign of the Year’ category in the 2020 UK Content Awards.
As part of USM’s wider marketing campaign #unlockthepotential, USM invited children from Linacre Primary School in Bootle to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience and enabled them to see their portraits of Everton first-team players replace all in-game player graphics at the Blues’ Premier League fixture with Newcastle United in January.
The children’s drawings appeared on stadium screens, in the matchday programme and across Everton’s official matchday social media and website output at the match. The images trended on social media and gained international media coverage with fans both at the stadium and online praising the children’s drawings and the partnership work between Everton and Edge Hill University on the ground-breaking Tackling the Blues programme.
Linacre Primary is one of a number of schools taking part in the ‘Tackling the Blues’ programme, delivered jointly by Everton in the Community and Edge Hill University, and funded by the Premier League.
The initiative aims to teach young people strategies for good mental and physical health, promote emotional literacy and improve self-esteem and confidence through a range of physical and class-based activities.
Drawing portraits is just one of the ways that children are encouraged to explore emotions, behaviours and practise peer support.
Club partner USM invited the Linacre pupils to Everton’s training ground, USM Finch Farm, for the initial drawing session – where they were surprised by Club captain Seamus Coleman, midfielders Fabian Delph and Theo Walcott, and goalkeeper Jonas Lossl, who sat for their portraits in person and took part in a Q&A with the children on the themes of acceptance, self-esteem, diversity and respect.
Professor Andy Smith from Edge Hill University, who alongside Everton in the Community designs and delivers the Tackling the Blues Programme, said: “To see this awareness-raising activity, informed by our research, recognised with a shortlisting for a national award is excellent news following the additional funding we have received from the Office for Students and Research England to expand the Tackling the Blues project over the next two years, and helps strengthen our work in this important area.
“Raising awareness of the importance of children’s mental health, and ensuring that children have access to the right tools they need to promote positive mental health is even more important now given the impacts of Covid-19 on school-based mental health, and the impact it is having on the inequalities which characterise the families and communities in which children live.”
The ‘USM Supports Tackling the Blues’ campaign will compete against Flow Creative & The Mental Health Foundation – Mental Health Awareness Week Campaign, Hill+Knowlton Strategies & Smart Energy GB – The Missing Piece, Impression & Harvey Water Softeners – Making Water Work Harder, International SOS – COVID-19 Insight and Intelligence Campaign and The Think Tank – Asendia 7 Destinations Campaign. The winner will be announced on 20 October 2020.
The ‘USM Tackling The Blues’ matchday activity has also been shortlisted for Best Fan Engagement Campaignat the 2020 Sport Business Awards, the winner of which is announced in December.
An Edge Hill and Everton FC mental
health partnership programme has been shortlisted in the 2020 Sports Business
the Blues, which aims to improve the mental health of young people aged 6-16
through sport, is in the running in the Best Fan Engagement category at the
The project which caught the judges’
eyes saw children from Linacre Primary School in Bootle create portraits of
Everton first team players which were then displayed as in-game player graphics
at one of the Blues’ Premier League fixtures in January, in the match-day
programme and across the team’s official social media and website.
The drawings trended on social media
and gained international media coverage with fans praising the children’s
drawings and the work of Tackling the Blues.
Smith, Tackling the Blues programme lead for Edge Hill University, said: “We are extremely pleased to hear the programme has
been shortlisted for an award.
“The feedback we received from the school pupils involved, and of course
fans, was excellent.
“We regularly encourage participants on Tackling the Blues to find
creative ways of expressing their thoughts and experiences of mental health,
and to explore their emotions and feelings in positive ways by engaging in peer
“The pictures and portraits drawn by the young people, supported so well
by the Everton players, really captured the imaginations of fans.
“The shortlisting is testimony to how academic research, and
longstanding partnerships between ourselves and Everton in the Community, can
be used to positively engage people in important matters such as mental health.”
Tackling the Blues
is delivered jointly by Edge Hill University and Everton FC’s official charity, Everton
in the Community (EitC), with support from club partner USM and funding from
the Premier League.
delivered with The Department of Sport and Physical Activity, aims to teach
young people strategies for good mental and physical health, promote emotional
literacy and improve self-esteem and confidence.
To date it has
engaged with nearly 1,000 young people weekly in primary schools, secondary
schools and community groups, and recently won a cash injection from The Office
for Students and Research England in recognition of the vital impact it has on
the Edge Hill student experience.
On this occasion, the
Bootle schoolchildren enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime experience when they visited
Everton’s USM Finch Farm training ground thanks to a surprise visit by club
captain Seamus Coleman, midfielders Fabian Delph and Theo Walcott and
goalkeeper Jonas Lossl.
The players sat for
their portraits and took part in a Q&A on themes including acceptance,
self-esteem, diversity and respect.
Everton FC and EitC have been nominated
in five categories in total, more than any other football finalist in this
year’s awards, with recognition for community impact, sports diversity and the professional
Other nominees include Cricket World
Cup 2019, golf’s The Open Championship, Premiership Rugby, Jockey Club
Services, The Royal British Legion and a small number of other Premier League
The winners of the 2020 Sports Business
Awards will be announced at a ceremony in London in December.
Edge Hill’s interdisciplinary MSc
in Sport, Physical Activity and Mental Health, delivered in association
with Everton in the Community, offers a unique opportunity to undertake
cutting-edge, impact-focused and policy-relevant teaching and research related
to health and wellbeing in sport, physical activity and related sectors.
A sport, art and education-based mental health awareness programme developed by Edge Hill University and Everton in the Community has been awarded half a million pounds in recognition of the vital impact it has on the student experience.
The £527k funding boost will ensure the University can expand its successful collaborations with Everton in the Community and further grow arts and wellbeing activities with Tate Liverpool.
The Office for Students and Research England unveiled the successful bids today (20th April) and Edge Hill has received the award for demonstrating the benefits the Tackling the Blues project brings to students, graduates and external partners through involvement in knowledge exchange activities.
Dr Helen O’Keeffe, Associate Dean for Edge Hill’s Faculty of Education, said: “It’s fantastic news that the Office for Students and Research England sees our work as an example of best practice across the higher education sector.
“The Tackling the Blues project not only makes an important contribution to the student experience, employability, knowledge exchange and research, but it also makes a vital difference to the children and families we work with in the Liverpool city region that suffer from some of the poorest health and wellbeing in the country.”
The award-winning Tackling the Blues targets young people aged 6-16 who are experiencing, or are at risk of developing, mental illness, and has already made a significant difference to people’s lives with participants feeling more confident and less anxious, and showing improved literacy and emotional intelligence skills.
Andy Smith, Professor of Sport and Physical Activity at Edge Hill, said: “We are proud of our long-standing partnership with Everton in the Community, the charitable arm of Everton Football Club, and more recently with Tate Liverpool, and both partners are hugely committed to this programme.
“The funding will allow us to expand our activities with them and grow the arts and wellbeing activities. Crucially, it will enable us to increase students’ engagement in our research and knowledge exchange activities and provide them with unique opportunities to work with our partners to positively impact the lives of our communities.”
Everton in the Community’s Tackling the Blues Coordinator Jack Mulineux said: “To be one of the recipients of this funding is great news and it will allow us to continue to work with our long-standing partner Edge Hill University but also create a new and exciting opportunity to work with Tate Liverpool.
“Not only will this enhance our reach but it will also contribute to the expansion of our provision which will continue to be aligned with improving health-related outcomes using innovative practices such as the arts to promote wellbeing.”
Director of Tate Liverpool Helen Legg added: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to deepen our partnership with Edge Hill University and extend our work on children’s mental health. It’s a transformative opportunity and we are confident that art and creative activity can play a valuable role in improving an individual’s mental health and build their emotional intelligence.”
Since its launch in 2013, Tackling the Blues has engaged more than 1,000 young people weekly in primary schools, secondary schools and community groups.
Children’s drawings to replace player matchday photographs at Goodison Park as USM training ground supports Edge Hill partnership programme Tackling the Blues
Portraits of Everton FC players created by schoolchildren will be shown on stadium screens for the Blues’ home game against Newcastle tomorrow, Tuesday 21 January – helping to raise awareness of the importance of positive mental health among young people.
USM invited Year 4 pupils from Linacre Primary School in Bootle to visit
Everton’s USM Finch Farm training ground to take part in a drawing session,
with their player portraits set to make a very special appearance at Goodison
Park on Tuesday night.
will replace the in-match player graphics for the Premier League encounter with
Newcastle on the stadium screens for the team announcement and substitutions.
They will also be used in the matchday programme and, away from the ground, the
images will be visible across Everton’s official matchday social media and
The activity is part of USM’s Unlock the Potential campaign and in support of Everton in the Community and Edge Hill University’s award-winning Tackling the Blues programme.
Linacre Primary School is one of a number of schools participating in Tackling the Blues, which aims to teach young people strategies for good mental and physical health, promote emotional literacy and improve self-esteem and confidence. The programme has engaged with more than 850 young people aged six to 16 years old in the last three years.
Delivered collaboratively by Everton in the Community and Edge Hill University, and funded by The Premier League, Tackling the Blues is co-designed and developed with young people, student mentors and education workers who act as project collaborators, to help recruit participants and deliver peer mentor workshops.
Professor Andy Smith, from Edge Hill University, said: “We are delighted that the benefits of the activities which we have designed with young people who engage in the Tackling the Blues programme are being recognised in this way.
“Helping young people to understand the importance of their mental health, how and where to seek help, and to provide activities which impact their lives positively is an important part of our longstanding partnership with Everton in the Community.
“We are especially grateful to the players, USM and everyone at the football club, for their continued support of Tackling the Blues and our wider research on using sport for mental health promotion.”
is just one of the ways that participants are encouraged to explore emotions,
behaviours and reactions and gain an understanding of the things we can all do
to support each other.
During the drawing session, the Linacre pupils were surprised by a visit from first team stars Fabian Delph, Theo Walcott, Seamus Coleman and Jonas Lossl – who came to sit for their portraits in person.
then tried their hand at their own drawings before taking part in a Q&A
with the children on topics including acceptance, self-esteem, diversity and
A video of the feel-good visit is being shared by the Club on Blue Monday (January 20) – supposedly ‘the most depressing day of the year.’
The pupils have
also been invited to the game against Newcastle to see their drawings come to
life across Goodison Park.
Michael Salla, Director of Health and Sport at Everton in the Community added: “In England, between 9 and 13% of 5-15-year-olds reported having a mental health disorder, with older young people reporting higher rates of mental illness. Suicide is the biggest killer of schoolchildren each year, with 200 on average taking their own lives.
“It is fantastic to see USM showing their support for Tackling the Blues. Programmes like this are vital in providing young people with tools and strategies that they can use as they get older to maintain good mental and physical health.
“It is also about removing stigma around mental health and making it clear that it is important to talk about mental health at any age, to ask for help and support when you need it, and ensure that young people know where to find that support.
“The player portraits are a great way of sharing that message and I am sure that the children will be delighted when they see their drawings on the big screen.”
In the first ever nationwide survey of its kind, academics at Edge Hill University, in partnership with DOCIAsport, have announced today (15 April) a mixed picture for mental illness and poor mental health experienced by people who play sport, exercise or who work in the UK sport and physical activity sector.
Responses from over 1200 men and women (aged 16 and above) involved in over 50 sports and activities from grassroots to professional level reveal that 57% of respondents had ever experienced a mental illness, with women (64%) being more likely to report this than males (51%).
Of those who had experienced mental illness, 40% currently did so (41% of females and 40% males). Significantly 70% of young women aged 16 to 24 said they had experienced mental illness with over half (54%) currently doing so. Men were more likely to currently experience mental illness from the age of 35.
Overall, approximately 1 in 4 respondents currently experience mental illness and one-third said they also knew of others who currently did so.
Anxiety, depression, panic disorders, self-harm, PTSD and OCD were the most commonly reported illnesses for men and women, with men also reporting conditions such as substance use disorders (including alcohol) and women anorexia and bulimia.
Those playing or working in grassroots sport were more likely to currently experience mental illness (45%) compared with those in education (41%), in the activity/lifestyle/recreation sector (38%) and high-performance sport (37%).
Experience of mental illness at some point in life was highest in hockey (79%), followed by climbing/mountaineering (78%), exercise and fitness (69%), cycling (64%), running (61%), triathlon (60%), rugby union (59%), swimming (56%), athletics (55%), golf (54%), multi-sports and rugby league (both 52%), football (52%) and netball (50%).
Current mental illness was most common in cricket (60%) followed by climbing/mountaineering (57%), rugby league (55%), multi-sports (46%), exercise/fitness (43%), rugby union (41%), football (40%), swimming (39%), cycling (38%), athletics and triathlon (both 33%), golf (32%), running (27%), netball (22%) and hockey (20%).
Over one-half of coaches (55%) and athletes/players (57%) had experienced mental illness, while 44% and 39%, respectively, currently did so. Volunteers also reported high levels of lifetime mental illness (64%), with 47% currently experiencing mental illness.
Other workers who were most likely to report experiencing mental illness included those directly involved in the provision of sport and physical activity, such as programme deliverers (82%), sports therapists (65%) and sport development officers (58%).
Life-time mental illness was also reported by over one-half of respondents in managerial and administrative roles, including chairperson (69%), administration/secretary (56%), programme manager/director (55%), commercial/marketing (53%), and chief executive officer and manager (both 52%).
When asked whether people in the same position as them would disclose experiences of mental illness to others in their organisation, just 10% of respondents felt it was likely or very likely that they would, while approximately six-in-ten (58%) said that it would be unlikely or very unlikely that this would happen.
There was mixed evidence of how mental health and illness were perceived and treated in the workplace. Some respondents commented on the stigma attached to mental illness, explaining that it was seen as ‘weak’ and expressed their fear of being judged as inadequate. Others said how they had received valuable support from friends, colleagues and workplaces and that mental health was taken seriously.
Consequently, 57% of respondents said they preferred to receive mental health support from someone outside of their organisation/workplace; one-quarter (25%) wanted to receive support from someone inside and outside their organisation; and just 5% preferred to receive mental health support from someone inside their organisation. A former footballer who experienced a range of mental illnesses including anxiety, depression and substance use disorder and is now a coach, said:
“I was released from a professional contract at 19 years old and struggled for many years with my identity. I often identified myself as a failed footballer and couldn’t see a future. Living like this led to issues with alcohol and gambling. I graduated from university but didn’t see this as a success. For many years I felt I didn’t want to carry on with my life, but I carried on, surviving … I then reached out [for support] … I feel this support has helped me to come to terms with my own life … I now feel proud of what I do now and see a future for myself.”
Great Britain Paralympian, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, has supported the survey after she chaired the government’s Duty of Care in Sport Review in 2017. She said:
“I was delighted that Edge Hill University and Ian Braid were able to contribute to the Duty of Care in Sport Review and have carried on the spirit of the review with thisnational survey into the mental health of people involved in sport and physical activity. Mental health within the sector was a vitally important part of the terms of reference of the review, and these findings show that mental illness can affect people across all sports and activities regardless of their role or status. It also shows how variable practice, organisational leadership and support for mental health is in this area.
“While much has been done to raise awareness of mental health within the sport and physical activity community over the last few years, the survey responses show there is still much more that can be done to better support people playing, exercising or working in the UK sport and physical activity sector. I hope this important research can be used to inform future policy and practice in the sector and help implement the recommendations of the Duty of Care in Sport Review.”
Professor Andy Smith, Professor of Sport and Physical Activity at Edge Hill University, who led the research, said:
“We’re pleased to announce the findings of the first ever survey of its kind into the mental health of people who play sport, exercise or who work in the sport and physical activity sector. While we know that being physically active can have a positive impact on mental health, these results show that mental illness is common across all levels of sport and physical activity and is a particularly significant public health challenge at grassroots and community level. We hope our findings will bring about important cultural change in the sector so that mental health becomes the responsibility of everyone and is taken more seriously.”
Melanie Timberlake, 36, UK Coaching Disability Coach of the Year,said:
“When I was younger I used to play sport and run for my school and at county level, a lot for my own mental health, being active had a really positive impact for me and was a great way for me to escape. But after suffering injuries to my knees I couldn’t do this anymore and my mental health suffered even more. I felt I couldn’t cope with things as I had before. Since having my two children and fighting other health battles I again suffered with mental illness. It was when my children, who both have disabilities, decided that they wanted to play football and couldn’t find a suitable club to join, that I decided it was time for me to get back into sport.
“I didn’t want them thinking they couldn’t play sport because of their disability so I took up coaching. Coaching really drives me, I love it and I think if I didn’t have sport I’d fall to pieces. Coaching has been such a healing rewarding experience but it comes with its own challenges too. Being part of the sporting community has had a hugely positive impact on my wellbeing and I hope that by being open about my own battles with mental illness I can help the players I coach, and everyone I work with to better understand mental wellbeing and not be ashamed to ask for help and know that there is help and support out there.”
Ian Braid, Managing Director, DOCIAsport, said:
‘“When I was burnt out and signed off work at the British Athletes Commission I told a number of people in sport that I was mentally ill and the response surprised me. People opened up to me about their own wellbeing challenges and talked about others they knew who were suffering, usually in silence. Then, no one really knew the scale of mental health need in the sport and physical activity sector, yet it was one of the biggest challenges people encounter.
“I was delighted therefore to collaborate with Professor Andy Smith and the rest of the Edge Hill team, on the first ever nationwide survey into the mental health of the sport and physical activity workforce. The results announced today show that there is work to be done within the sector at all levels, and in all roles, if it is to maximise its contribution to the wellbeing of all workers and society more broadly.”
James Allen, Director of Policy, Governance and External Affairs, Sport and Recreation Alliance, said:
“I’m really proud to be launching this ground breaking work today into the mental health of the sport and recreation sector workforce. I’m delighted to have been given the opportunity by Edge Hill University and DOCIAsport to contribute and my hope now is that the many key findings are acted upon.
“Since first launching the Alliance’s mental health work in 2015 with the publication of the Mental Health Charter, I’ve been hugely heartened by the breadth of interest in mental health across the sector. I see this research as vital to the next stage – building on excellent work to date to bring greater depth to our collective understanding of the challenges faced by the workforce. I also hope that this research drives further interest in the fantastic resources already out there.”
If you have, or are currently affected by mental illness and would like to speak to someone please phone the Samaritans freephone number 116 123 or email [email protected] To find out about mental health advice and support in your area please visit https://hubofhope.co.uk
DOCIAsport has been established to offer a collaborative partnership service to National Governing Bodies (NGBs), member associations and Higher Education institutions providing independent advice, support and guidance on all aspects of Duty of Care in Action.
TheSport and Recreation Alliance believes that the power of sport and recreation can change lives and bring communities together. Together with our members and in partnership with the wider sector, we make the most of opportunities and tackle the areas that provide a challenge. We provide advice, support and guidance to our members and the sector, who represent traditional governing bodies of games and sport, county sports partnerships, outdoor recreation, water pursuits, and movement and dance exercise. As the voice of the sector, we work with government, policy makers and the media to make sure grassroots sport and recreation grows and thrives. Having an active nation is important as it delivers huge benefits to society and the millions of participants, volunteers, staff and spectators.
Edge Hill University and Everton in the Community’s flagship children’s mental health programme has been shortlisted for a national award for its positive impact across Merseyside.
Tackling the Blues (TtB), a sport and education-based mental health programme delivered in partnership with the official charity of Everton Football Club has been shortlisted by the UK Sports Journalists Association in their ‘Sport for Social Change’ category at the British Sports Awards.
Across Liverpool 78 per cent of five to 15-year-olds with anxiety or depression are not in contact with mental health services.
By working in schools across the city, TtB targets these children and young people as well of those who are at risk of developing mental illness.
Emoji bingo, peer mentoring and physical activities are used to increase self-esteem and reduce anxiety whilst helping them build positive relationships with peers and external agencies.
The latest impact report for TtB, which reaches over 650 young people in schools and community groups, also shows the programme increases confidence, improves decision making and mental health knowledge (literacy) and reduces isolation and loneliness. A 12-year-old participant, said:
“I think TtB is brilliant it made me think that if something has happened in the past you can talk to them (teachers/staff). When I got bullied online and felt sad I told one of your staff (running the session) and they helped me a lot. It helped me to be brave and not suffer all the time because of it.”
Andy Smith, Professor of Sport and Physical Activity at Edge Hill University, said:
“We’re delighted to be nominated for such a prestigious award which is attended by many of the major sports writers, editors, photographers and broadcasters. We’re the only university nominated, and the judging criteria considers impact, reach, sustainability and innovation. These are all key elements of the co-produced programme that we’ve delivered with Everton in the Community over the last three years and it’s very gratifying that its evidence-based impact in making a real difference to the lives of hundreds of children has been recognised once again.”
Michael Salla, Director of Health and Sport at Everton in the Community, said:
“Half of all adult mental illnesses – excluding dementia – are first experienced by the age of 14 so early intervention is vitally important. To be recognised by the sporting world for how we use sport as a tool to promote mental health awareness and tackle mental illness is fantastic and we have plans to develop the programme further over the coming months.”
The winner will be announced at an award ceremony in the Tower of London on 6 December. To read more about TtB please click here