07/02/2018 08:00 GMT | Updated 07/02/2018 11:11 GMT

MindSpace: Pioneering Scheme Is Changing The Way Schools Tackle Kids' Mental Health Struggles

Horizon Community College in Barnsley is home to a 'safe haven' wellbeing suite.

Young people across Barnsley are being supported by a pioneering mental health scheme embedded in secondary schools

MindSpace, an initiative piloted in 10 Barnsley secondary schools by Wellspring Academy Trust, places mental health practitioners in the schools to promote early intervention and build resilience through group classroom-based workshops on topics such as self-harm, depression and suicide. 

This comes as the Local Government Association (LGA) has today [Wednesday 7 February] said all secondary schools should have mental health counsellors to give help to pupils when they need it. They argued this is “vital”, as some young people may wait more than a year for support through local mental health services. 

The LGA is calling for 5% of the funding pledged to improve young people’s mental wellbeing to be used in schools. 

One of the schools running MindSpace is Horizon Community College, which HuffPost UK visited to see how the scheme is helping children.

The college is home to a wellbeing suite, described by children as a “safe haven” where they come to have one-on-one sessions as well as group workshops about wellbeing. 

A group workshop discussing feelings about wellbeing and happiness.

“MindSpace is the first step towards changing the whole culture around mental health and education,” said Mark Wilson, CEO of Wellspring Academy Trust

The £1.3m scheme is funded by Barnsley Clinical Commissioning Group and brings in teams of mental health nurses to work with young people, as well as trained counsellors working with parents and carers.

This scheme hopes to bypass waiting lists for traditional mental health services, which have experienced rising demand and insufficient capacity. It aims to ensure schools can tackle problems quickly and links mental health professionals, educators, families and young people in an entirely new way. 

Wilson added: “We need to make it much easier for children to talk about mental health and seek support.

“This step change takes ambition but with multi-agency collaboration it’s entirely possible and we owe it to young people to make this happen.

“We listened to young people during the pilot of this project and they overwhelmingly told us they want access to mental health professionals.”

MindSpace officially launched on 5 October 2017. The scheme is now set to be rolled out in Halifax and, Lincolnshire, with plans to extend it across the country in the coming months. 

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