Young people from Wolverhampton shared their experiences of mental health and wellbeing issues with Royalty at the first national HeadStart Learning conference last week.
Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge made a visit to the conference in London to learn about HeadStart, a five-year National Lottery funded programme set up by the Big Lottery Fund to give young people, aged 10 to 16, the tools they need to overcome life’s challenges and prevent the development of serious mental health issues.
The conference – ‘Improving Young People’s Mental Resilience and Wellbeing: Learning from HeadStart’ – was organised by the Big Lottery Fund and the Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families, of which Her Royal Highness is a patron.
Her attendance reflects her interest in early intervention in children's mental health to help young people get the support they need.
The conference brought together representatives from all six HeadStart areas, Wolverhampton, Blackpool, Cornwall, Hull, Newham and Kent.
Her Royal Highness met HeadStart Wolverhampton Ambassadors Cristina Wilde and Hannah Rooney, Assistant Young Person Engagement Coordinator Francesca Turner, and HeadStart Marketing and Communications Apprentice Emerson Morris, who discussed with her their involvement with HeadStart and the work they are doing to support the mental health of their peers.
Emerson said: “It was wonderful to meet Her Royal Highness and I found her passion for supporting mental health really inspiring. She’s a role model for young people across the country, encouraging people to talk openly about mental health.”
Head of Service Kevin Pace and Senior Young Person Engagement Coordinator Sunita Pallan-Jhalli also presented Her Royal Highness with a framed copy of the poem ‘Bright’, written by HeadStart Wolverhampton Ambassador Megan Williams, and discussed the good work HeadStart Wolverhampton is doing to support the emotional wellbeing and mental health of young people in the City.
The conference featured presentations from academics working in child mental health, psychology and education, and keynote speeches from leaders from Wolverhampton and the other five HeadStart areas.
Young people from HeadStart Wolverhampton took to the stage to share their experiences and insights with delegates. Francesca Turner co-compèred the conference, and Cristina and Hannah participated in a young person panel discussion, ‘Young people in the lead: What does it really mean?’.
Head of Service Kevin Pace said: “It was wonderful to see so many staff and young people from all six HeadStart areas come together for this conference. Our Wolverhampton team were heavily involved throughout the day, participating in panels, leading discussions and sharing our local work.”
During the conference, keynote speaker Dr Jessica Deighton, an associate professor from University College London, shared important findings from the first national HeadStart survey of 30,000 Year 7 and Year 9 pupils from the six Big-Lottery funded HeadStart areas, including Wolverhampton.
It revealed that one in five young people have experienced mental health problems, much higher than the typically reported statistic of one in 10. Girls were more than twice as likely than boys to report experiencing emotional problems, with boys 50% more likely to experience behavioural problems.
Dr Deighton concluded that high rates of mental health problems among young people “highlight the importance of finding the best means to promote positive wellbeing, and to prevent and address mental health problems”.
Councillor Val Gibson, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “This survey shows just how vital the help and support given through our ground-breaking HeadStart Wolverhampton programme is in helping our children and young people deal with the mental health and wellbeing issues they face.
“It was great that the team from HeadStart Wolverhampton were able to share their learning on a national stage at this conference and had the wonderful opportunity to meet and share their experiences with the Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge.”
HeadStart Wolverhampton runs a number of specific programmes in its four target areas where need is known to be greatest, including Low Hill, The Scotlands and Bushbury South; Springfield, Heath Town, Park Village and Eastfield; All Saints, Blakenhall, Parkfields and Ettingshall; and Bilston East.
It also offers city-wide support through a Support and Guidance Directory at support.headstartonline.co.uk which provides a range of selected well-being and mental health resources from different organisations, with information targeted at young people, parents and carers, and professionals.
To find out more about HeadStart Wolverhampton, please visit www.headstartonline.co.uk, follow @headstartfm on Twitter or Instagram, or find HeadStart on Facebook at www.facebook.com/headstartfm.