More schools set to benefit from pioneering mental health project
PUBLISHED: 15:50 11 February 2019 | UPDATED: 16:17 11 February 2019
A pioneering project helping students and staff at a secondary school with their mental health is to be rolled out further across west Suffolk following its success.
Since 2017, Thurston Community College, near Bury St Edmunds, has employed a full-time psychologist – one of the only schools in the country to do so – in partnership with the region’s mental health trust.
The psychologist has offered support on issues such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and eating disorders as well as training staff on how to identify and best address issues.
Recruitment has now begun for three full-time clinical psychologists and one full-time assistant clinical psychologist to be employed at Mildenhall College Academy, Newmarket Academy and Castle Manor Academy in Haverhill.
The roles will support the mental wellbeing of the 4,300 students and 400 staff members at these secondary schools and several thousand pupils from their feeder primary schools.
Thurston has already reported on the very positive impact its ground-breaking approach to mental health has had – with 81% of students who reported living with anxiety or depression having seen their symptoms improve, resulting in improved engagement with school, greater capacity for learning and increased self-confidence.
Staff also reported experiencing less workplace stress, increased happiness in their work and improved ability to cope with workplace pressures.
MORE: Suffolk school leading the way in pupil mental health
Dr Beth Mosley, Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s clinical psychologist at Thurston Community College, who is leading the project’s expansion, said: “Being at the helm of this pioneering project since its inception two years ago has been incredible.
“What has been achieved has been immense and it is so pleasing that we have helped staff and pupils understand themselves and each other better.
“Now we are moving to the next stage and I am thrilled that we can reach out to even more pupils and staff and have a positive impact on their lives.
“Outside of the home, school is often the hub of a young person’s life and so is the prime environment to promote resilience and wellbeing.
“40% of adult mental health issues develop before the age of 14, yet only 25-40% of young people receive the right support.
“Young people are our future which is why it is so important they get the right help early on.”
Dr Rosalind Tandy, a Bury St Edmunds GP, who leads on mental health for NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (WSCCG), said: “The good work happening at Thurston Communty College is truly innovative and it is certainly pleasing that even more young people are set to benefit.
“The more we can help and support people early on the far greater chance of them living happier and healthier adult lives. The actions we take now will have a really big impact on their future.”
The project is part of the system-wide Emotional Wellbeing Transformation Plan for east and west Suffolk, which sets out how, by 2020, it will improve children and young people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health.
The project is being funded for two years by WSCCG and the roll-out aims to replicate the success enjoyed at Thurston.
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Vanessa Whitcombe, headteacher at the Castle Manor Academy, said: “We are delighted to be able to be involved in such an innovative project. Helping us to extend our provision with such high quality expertise will doubtless benefit many of our young people.”
Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds, who has been instrumental in the project’s expansion through the young person’s mental health working group, said: “This project allows children to gain both the support and tools they need to succeed emotionally, academically and in terms of their personal growth.
“I am incredibly keen to see this successful model rolled out more widely, so that even more students and teachers, and arguably parents, can see the benefits of integrating mental health support into the education environment.
“I would like to particularly thank both Beth and Helen Wilson, the head of Thurston Community College, for showing inspirational leadership, in what I have termed across government as the Thurston model.”
Matt Hancock, MP for West Suffolk and health secretary, said: “As West Suffolk MP I care deeply that everyone growing up locally has the best start in life.
“That means supporting our schools, and increasingly looking out for the mental health of pupils. “The addition of full-time clinical psychologists at Mildenhall College Academy, Newmarket Academy and Castle Manor Academy is excellent news and is extremely welcome. “The idea has worked well elsewhere, like in Thurston, and will have the power to improve the lives of both staff and pupils in our west Suffolk schools.”