11 Jul 2014

More than 1,000 young people in Birmingham will be given help to become mentally strong to combat the “growing challenge” of school-age mental concerns.

The Children’s Society, working with Birmingham City Council’s public health team and a range of other partner organisations, has been awarded half a million pounds from the Big Lottery Fund to find ways to prevent mental health problems among pupils aged 10 to 14.

The funding will be spent by the partnership – known as Headstart Birmingham – between now and December 2015 to support 1,185 pupils across three schools as well as the city’s pupil referral unit for children who cannot attend school.

The participating schools are Washwood Heath Academy, Holte Visual and Performing Arts College, Greenwood Academy and Sixth Form and the City of Birmingham Pupil Referral Unit.

The support, which will include lessons in the classroom as well as targeted one-to-one and family-based support, is aimed at making young people more resilient to the knocks, struggles and disappointments that adolescent life can bring.

The Children’s Society, which supports disadvantaged families through campaigns and direct services, is also applying with its partners for additional funding from the Big Lottery Fund to enable it to continue its work beyond 2015 and in more schools.

Rob Willoughby, area director for The Children’s Society in the West Midlands, said: “All the statistics show that anxiety and depression among young people are going in the wrong direction and we want to do something about this growing challenge.

“The Children’s Society will be working hard over the next year to support young people with mental health difficulties and to give young people the skills and advice they need to stay strong and recognise when problems are developing.”

A survey carried out in May 2014 to support the Headstart Birmingham Lottery application found that exams are the biggest cause of worry among young people in Birmingham. Two thirds (65%) of the 710 pupils responding to the online survey found exams to be a source of unhappiness and anxiety.

Bullying was also a big concern, with 39% highlighting it as a cause for unhappiness. Jobs and the future were cited by 30% while friendships were mentioned by 28%.

A majority of respondents (59%) highlighted having a place to go to discuss their problems as a key need at school. More than a third (34%) said they wanted more support through school.

A significant proportion of young people felt that it was very hard (9%) or hard (29%) for young people to use services in the community when they were feeling unhappy.

When it came to sharing their troubles, young people were most likely to talk to their parents about things which made them unhappy or anxious, with 45% saying mum or dad would be their first port of call. Some 16% said they preferred to talk to a friend, 10% said a brother or sister and 5% a teacher. One in ten admitted to keeping their worries to themselves, and only 1.5% said they would share their troubles on the internet. 

Rob Willoughby, area director for The Children’s Society in the West Midlands, said: “The survey findings suggest that school work and exams are a source of real worry and stress for young people. Schools need to be aware of that and ensure that support is available. When sources of anxiety and unhappiness are not addressed that’s when mental health problems can develop.”


Media enquiries

For more information please call The Children’s Society’s media team on 020 7841 4422 or email media@childrenssociety.org.uk. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.

Notes to editors

• The partners working with The Children’s Society as part of Birmingham Headstart include Washwood Heath Academy, Holte Visual and Performing Arts College, Greenwood Academy, Birmingham’s Pupil Referral Unit, Birmingham City Council including its Public Health team, University of Birmingham, West Midlands Police, South Clinical Commissioning Group, Cross City Clinical Commissioning Group, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Birmingham Voluntary Sector Council, Warwick University, the NHS, My Time, Birmingham Mind, Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust, Washwood Heath and Common Unity.

• The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. We give a voice to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and provide relief for young carers. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life.