Primary School Uses Innovative Wellbeing Hub To Help Pupils With Mental Health

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With the recently-announced NHS Long Term Plan identifying mental health as a key focus, we shine a spotlight on one of the great projects in our area which is addressing mental health as early as possible.

Great Bentley Primary School has set up a Wellbeing Hub, where the children spend time using art, science and constructions activities to explore self-awareness. It is a place where mental health doesn’t have a stigma. The children can talk openly about their worries and anxieties which validates them and helps to give them mechanisms to manage them. Put simply, it sets them up both academically and emotionally for adulthood.

It is an initiative that has been welcomed by parents and seems popular with the children. Healthwatch Essex produced a short film with Great Bentley Primary School which features the teachers, children and parents speaking about the initiative. It can be viewed here.

The hub is particularly important given the context of figures which show that, in Essex, about one in six people are known to be living with mental illness and there are likely to be many more that we simply don’t know about. We can expect around 60,000 working age adults in the county to experience two or more psychotic disorders. Despite a decrease in suicide rates nationally between 2007 and 2014, Essex has bucked the trend, seeing an increase during that time. And yet, we know that between 25% and 50% of adult mental illness is likely to be preventable with appropriate interventions in childhood and adolescence.

As an organisation, Healthwatch Essex has consistently worked with partners, organisations and individuals to ensure that the voice and lived experience of patients, staff, carers and friends/family are heard at the highest level. Our engagement with young people in Essex has also shown consistently that mental health is a high priority for school-aged children. In fact, it is estimated that 22,500 children and young people in Essex have a mental health problem requiring specialist help with 10,000 5-10-year-olds in Essex having a mental disorder. Mental health is linked to every aspect of our lives, including physical health, the quality of our relationships, social inclusion and community safety.

Dr David Sollis, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Essex, said: “The NHS Long Term Plan sets out a commitment to the people of Essex about how their future health care will be delivered over the next ten years. It is important that we look at how mental health services are provided across the county so that people do not ‘fall through the net’. Part of that is not just dealing with mental health when it becomes a problem but equipping children with the ability to manage their own mental health, which is why we are keen to showcase the Wellbeing Hub in Great Bentley as an example of good practice.

“We know from working with our Mental Health Ambassadors, helping to create the Mental Health Strategy for Essex between 2017 and 2021, that this is just one example of lots of good work that is going on to tackle what seems to be a burgeoning problem in the county. However, it is also clear that funding for services within the voluntary sector, which have invaluable connections with the local communities that they serve, is increasingly stretched.

Healthwatch Essex will continue to use its network of Mental Health Ambassadors and stories from members of the public to keep lived experience at the heart of the design of new services, so that they stand the greatest chance of being fit for purpose well into the future.”