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.  

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