Empowering students to become mental health champions

A team of student mentors from Edge Hill University have shared their personal experiences of training to become mental health champions for award-winning programme Tackling the Blues. 

The mentors have completed a major programme of training to boost their mental health literacy and enhance their employability skills since joining Tackling the Blues. The programme is a sport and arts-based education programme developed in partnership between Edge Hill University, Everton in the Community and Tate Liverpool. 

To date, Tackling the Blues has supported over 400 Edge Hill students to complete Chasing the Stigma’s Ambassador of Hope training. This training focusses on how to talk about mental health and illness, how to effectively find help and signpost using the Hub of Hope and what to do in a mental health emergency. 

Additional training sessions have seen mentors become certified Youth Mental Health First Aid Champions, as well as complete social and emotional courses in Psychological First Aid: Supporting Children and Young People,  Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) early Trauma online learning and Zero Suicide Alliance

The knowledge and skills gained through  mental health training were implemented by Tackling the Blues mentors during University Mental Health Day on 4th March 2021. The mentors designed and delivered a student peer-to-peer event including a host of creative and interactive workshops addressing current issues in mental health and wellbeing. 

From enhancing their delivery of Tackling the Blues programme to children and young people across the North West, to boosting their employability, skills and confidence, the mentors reflect on how the training has helped them. 

Christopher Siu

Christopher Siu, 20, a Sports Coaching & Development student, said: “The Tackling the Blues training programme has definitely opened up new insights on mental health and improved my literacy around the subject. I believe I am now more confident in presenting myself and the skills I have acquired to potential employers. The training I’ve received influenced the way I delivered my part during the University Mental Health Day event because, at the time, I was very nervous and afraid of speaking about my personal experience with mental health and not knowing if I was using the correct terminology. However, since undergoing the training, I was able to efficiently deliver my part with confidence.”

Elise Rendell

Elise Rendell, 22, an MSc student in Sport, Physical Activity & Mental Health, said: “Having seen a few of my friends struggle with their mental health and having struggled living on my own while at university, I’ve wanted to help people through that difficult time. After I started my Masters at Edge Hill, I was given the option to apply for Tackling the Blues and I saw it as a fantastic opportunity to try and help younger children to be more aware of their feelings and their mental health. I feel that the Tackling the Blues accredited training has given a massive boost for my employability as it’s given me exposure to working with children and young people, as well as having the experience of planning and delivering the sessions myself.” 

Molly Harrison

Molly Harrison, 21, an MSc student in Sport, Physical Activity & Mental Health, said: “During the University Mental Health Day event, we focused on teaching the students a range of coping mechanisms to help them deal with their mental health and the wellbeing of others while at university. We also wanted to raise awareness of mental health in general and some of the misconceptions around it. We were able to pass on the learnings from our own training to the students to help boost their mental literacy. Personally, the training has improved my skills as a Tackling the Blues mentor, and I enjoy being able to help other people open up about how they’re feeling and empowering them with the tools to understand and articulate it.” 

Taigh Wilson

Taigh Wilson, 21, a Sports Management & Coaching student, said: “The amount of training we have received has really developed my knowledge of mental health. It’s taught me how to talk about the issue appropriately and help others to understand the importance of emotional literacy. On a personal level, my presentation and communication skills have improved a lot through the programme, and I’ve noticed a big boost in my confidence levels too. Tackling the Blues has opened my eyes to pursuing a career in community sport, which I wouldn’t have realised if it wasn’t for the experiences that I’ve had access to through the programme.” 

Charlotte Hall

Charlotte Hall, 20, a Sports and Exercise Science student, said: “The training helped to inform my approach and delivery of my role as a Tackling the Blues mentor at a special educational needs (SEN) school. We have received certificates for all of the training courses completed and it‘s allowed us to develop a lot of transferable skills. I feel that the training has enhanced all of the mentors’ skillsets, especially for those wanting to pursue a career in mental health or working with children.” 

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.  

Students from the Faculty of Education or the Department of Sport and Physical Activity who are interested in finding out more about Tackling the Blues and how they can get involved in the 2021/2022 academic year are encouraged to visit the new Tackling the Blues website to find out more information.  

Tackling the Blues launches new bitesize mental health programme

Tackling the Blues, an award-winning sport and arts-based education programme, has launched a series of online bitesize lessons to help teachers support children and young people’s mental health during lockdown.

Developed in partnership by Edge Hill University, Everton in the Community and Tate Liverpool, the new five-week programme BLUES has responded to the pupil mental health and wellbeing concerns faced by schools in the partnership.

BLUES stands for:  

  • Boosting your mood 
  • Loneliness 
  • Uncertaintyand dealing with it 
  • Emotions: anxiety and frustration 
  • Self-care and checking in

The programme is underpinned by the New Economics Foundation’s Five Ways to Wellbeing, with Edge Hill University students designing the programme in their roles as Tackling the Blues student mentors. The 48 student mentors have developed content to help schools across Merseyside and West Lancashire with the aim to connect to whole school approaches to mental health and wellbeing.

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. They said: “This past year has been an incredibly testing time for teachers and pupils across the country. That’s why it’s more important than ever that teachers are empowered with the tools to support better mental health and wellbeing for their pupils.

“We can’t wait to return to delivering the programme in person and are aiming to be in a position, restrictions permitting, to deliver the full Tackling the Blues programme following the Easter break.”

Lathom Park Primary School in Ormskirk is one of the schools enrolled on the BLUES programme. Teacher Evan Fraser said the programme has “provided an insight into how important it is to focus on emotional literacy”, and for their pupils to understand their own mental health and wellbeing.

Michael Salla, Director of Health and Sport at Everton in the Community said: “Our Tackling the Blues programme has continued to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing landscape since its launch in 2015 and in particular the last 12-months. The introduction of the online BLUES Bitesize programme is the latest addition to the programme and something that will also be utilised to meet the mental health and wellbeing of needs of children nationally and internationally.

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 innovate ways in engaging students in knowledge exchange to improve their knowledge, understanding and experiences of mental health in education in local communities. 

Dr Deborah Riding, Programme Manager, Children & Young People at Tate Liverpool said: “Being able to deliver this activity online to schools during lockdown, using arts and sport to help get positive mental health messages out to young people, has been a significant achievement.

“The online sessions the partners have developed together has helped give schools flexibility at a time when they needed it and is beneficial to them and the pupils as an on-going resource. It has also provided a great opportunity for the student mentors to develop their digital skills which will be a huge asset to them when seeking employment.”

For more information about Tackling the Blues, visit its dedicated Twitter page @TacklingBlues.

Edge Hill marks University Mental Health Day with free Tackling the Blues sessions

Edge Hill’s Tackling the Blues programme, delivered in partnership with Everton in the Community and Tate Liverpool, is marking University Mental Health Day on Thursday 4th March by offering a range of free mental health activities for students

Tackling the Blues mentors will be delivering bitesize sessions on various mental health themes throughout the afternoon, including activities on how to boost your mood and address loneliness, coping with anxiety and frustration, and self-care sessions to support and improve wellbeing. 

More than 250 students will be given the opportunity to take part in Chasing the Stigma’s Ambassadors of Hope mental health training, which enables people to talk about mental health and illness, what to do in a mental health emergency and how to effectively find help and signpost using its free Hub of Hope app. 

Supported by funding from the Office for Students, Research England and the Premier League Charitable Fund, Tackling the Blues is a sport and arts-based programme delivered in local schools across Merseyside, Sefton and Lancashire. 

Forty-eight student mentors from Edge Hill’s Department of Sport and Physical Activity and Faculty of Education are working to deliver this programme alongside staff from all three partner organisations.

Dr Helen O’Keeffe and Professor Andy Smith who lead the Tackling the Blues programme, said: “We are delighted to be in a position to offer Edge Hill students the opportunity to benefit from the expertise within the Tackling the Blues team. It will be a day where we hope students across the University can take some time to consider this important aspect of their personal wellbeing in the middle of these particularly challenging times.”

Other virtual activities provided on the day will include mindfulness meditation and drawing, a mental health quiz, workout challenge, tips on how to improve self-care, and a virtual mental health workshop by State of Mind Sport on professional athletes’ and officials’ experiences and management of mental health and wellbeing.

Tackling the Blues has been running since 2015 with funding from the Premier League Charitable Fund, and in 2020 significant additional funding was received from the Office for Students and Research England to:

  • Provide new evidence on innovative ways of engaging students in knowledge exchange through an expanded version of Tackling the Blues which focuses on the promotion of mental health through sport and the arts in education
  • To provide opportunities for more students to become involved in KE activities which improve their knowledge, understanding and experiences of mental health in education in local communities
  • To develop a transferable student-focused model of KE which can be implemented and scaled up in other HE institutions
  • To contribute positively to the Liverpool City Region and Lancashire agenda of improving the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people

Tackling the Blues welcomes six new recruits as part of expansion programme

Top L-R: Rachel Wilcock, Aston Monro, Dr Emma Curd
Bottom L-R: James Ratcliffe, Emily McCurrie, Phil McClure

Award-winning mental health programme Tackling the Blues has appointed six new recruits to grow activities at a time when mental health has never been more important. 

Delivered by Edge Hill University, Everton in the Community and Tate Liverpool, the programme promotes mental health in education through sports, physical activity and the arts.  

Tackling the Blues is delivered by students and staff across Edge Hill’s Department of Sport and Physical Activity and Faculty of Education and, since its launch in 2015, has engaged with almost 1,000 young people across Merseyside and West Lancashire.  

Funding for the new recruits follows on from a £527,000 funding award from the Office for Students and Research England earlier this year in recognition of the vital impact it has on the student experience. The programme received the award for demonstrating the benefits it brings to students, graduates and external partners through involvement in knowledge exchange activities. 

Emily McCurrie has joined Edge Hill’s Faculty of Education as the Partnership Development and Engagement Manager and will spend the first two years of her post leading the operational activity of Tackling the Blues. Prior to joining the programme, Emily lived in Scotland for 18 years, where she studied health psychology and worked as a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist in the NHS. 

Emily will focus on developing partnership engagement with schools and education providers to create opportunities for student employability, work experience and enrichment activities. 

Tate Liverpool has appointed Dr Emma Curd and Phil McClure as Tackling the Blues Coordinators to oversee the development and delivery of the new arts strand and they will work to encourage young people to use art as a tool to explore, understand and aid their emotional health and wellbeing. 

Emma is an artist, facilitator and researcher, who uses creative and participatory methods to create spaces for discussion, collaboration and co-production. During her career, she has facilitated workshops and learning programmes in galleries, museums, libraries and higher education institutions, while Phil was previously the Lead for Participation and Democracy at Halton Youth Provision, where he supported young people dealing with issues around substance abuse, hidden harm and emotional health and wellbeing. In addition to this, he led on LGBTQ+ youth work in the borough. 

Everton in the Community has recruited James Ratcliffe as a new Tackling the Blues Coordinator to help develop the programme’s sports and physical activity strand. James previously completed his MSc in Sport, Physical Activity and Mental Health at Edge Hill, where he gained experience as a lead mentor on Tackling the Blues. 

Edge Hill has recruited two Research Assistants, Rachel Wilcock and Aston Monro, who will be responsible for measuring the impact of the programme on children and young people and will evaluate how student mentors benefit from knowledge exchange opportunities. 

Rachel joins the team following three years in another Research Assistant role at Edge Hill, where she conducted programme evaluations for community-based programmes that address mental health and suicide concerns in the North West.  

Aston has recently graduated from Edge Hill with an MSc in Sport, Physical Activity and Mental Health, during which time he received a bursary from the UEFA Foundation to work alongside Tackling the Blues as a mentor and researcher. 

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: “It is fantastic to be expanding our team as we reach such a significant point in the programme’s journey. 

“To date, Tackling the Blues has engaged with a thousand young people across Merseyside and West Lancashire with the aim to positively impact the lives and mental health of our communities. In such uncertain times for the world, we are looking forward to extending our reach and influence to help even more children and young people in the region to promote mental, physical and emotional literacy and improve their self-esteem and confidence, with the help of our student community.” 

Michael Salla, Everton in the Community Director of Health and Sport, said: “Building on the success of the programme since its launch in 2015, this addition of high-quality staff will allow us to better address the increasing prevalence of poor mental health among children and young people. The programme has demonstrated significant improvements with increasing mental wellbeing, reducing anxiety and increasing physical activity levels, which are all key areas and particularly during the current pandemic.”  

Dr Deborah Riding, Programme Manager, Children & Young People at Tate Liverpool, said: “Working in partnership with Edge Hill University and Everton in the Community in this way gives us, collectively, an exciting opportunity to embed a new way for children and young people with their schools and communities to engage with mental health. More than ever, given the current situation, children and young people need opportunities to develop their confidence and resilience through creative and cultural activity, raising aspirations and positively impacting on their wellbeing. We hope the expansion of the project can make a significant difference in the lives of many children and young people across the North West.” 

From January 2021, the Tackling the Blues team is excited to recommence its engagement activities with schools across the region. Click here to find out the latest news about Tackling the Blues.