National studies* have shown a deterioration in the mental health of young people in recent years, and the impacts of the pandemic and lockdowns point to increased levels of distress, worry and anxiety, including increased feelings of loneliness and worries about school and the future, as well as challenges within families.
40,000 (60%) young people in Years 8 and 10 in Greater Manchester took part in #BeeWell this year, in what was the largest survey of its kind in the UK. Their voices will inform the rollout of social prescribing pilots across the region. This new approach to supporting young people’s mental health builds on established and growing adult social prescribing where individuals are supported to connect into groups and activities in their local community for the benefit of their health and wellbeing. It’s a non-medical approach which takes into account young people’s strengths and interests, rather than focussing exclusively on what they feel is wrong in their lives.
Uniquely, the programme will be designed by young people and for young people and available on or near school premises, making activities easy to access for all.
Thanks to BBC Children in Need’s A Million & Me programme and Greater Manchester Mental Health Transformation funding, students will:
- Have the chance to train as #BeeWell Champions and will be supported to develop local campaigns that address the issues facing young people in their area as well as offering support to their peers.
- Receive a funding pot so that they can work with local organisations and groups to develop more of the kinds of activities that local young people want and need, including creative opportunities, access to green spaces and activities that keep them moving.
- Have access to local #BeeWell survey data, so that they can make decisions based on what young people say they want and need.
The project is one of only a handful of youth social prescribing pilots around the UK and part of a series of pilots alongside education, charity and community partners to test how to create a sustainable social prescribing approach with and for young people in Greater Manchester. This innovative approach to mental health and wellbeing in schools, builds on learning from a pilot to introduce social prescribing into eight colleges around Greater Manchester. A partnership with the Association of Colleges and national charity Street Games has seen college pastoral staff given access to enhanced training in mental health and wellbeing, social prescribing and commissioning projects with arts organisations who specialise in work with young people. At Hopwood Hall College in Rochdale, additional funding has meant that a dedicated, specialist youth link worker has been employed giving even greater access to help and support for the students studying there.
An evaluation of the pilots will focus on what has had most impact on young people’s confidence, resilience and self-esteem and reduced feelings of anxiety. Learning from the projects will be made available across the city region and the whole of the UK.
Callum, a #BeeWell youth advisor, said:
“As a young person who struggled with supporting their mental health myself, the newest #BeeWell pilot is a tremendous step in the right direction. Most funding for mental healthcare goes towards adults – it attempts to deal with the issues after they appear. Programs like this focus on preventing these problems before they become all-consuming. With youth representation at the heart of #BeeWell’s projects, I’m excited to say that young people will finally have a say in their own wellbeing, and it’ll most certainly be for the better.”
Sandeep Ranote, Interim Greater Manchester Medical Executive lead for mental health said:
“With more young people struggling with their mental health, we need to keep finding new ways to work together as a system and provide good quality care. This pilot will allow young people to make decisions and design activities alongside professionals from health, education and the wider care system. It’s allowing us to build a response to what young people themselves are saying and come up with solutions together. Social prescribing is an important part of prevention, care and recovery for our young people and this pilot is an opportunity to strengthen this and embed it in our approach .”
Bryony Sherry, Youth Link Worker at Hopwood Hall College in Rochdale said:
“In the short time I’ve worked at the college I have come across a great variation of students, of which the majority are accessing or waiting for mental health services. A change from CAMHS to adult services in some cases is difficult and the young people are feeling like they have been let down by the services which should be offering care. Sadly, I have come across young people reaching crisis point, and this has been a difficult aspect of my role. However, students who I have seen in this position have been open to the idea of social prescribing and I’m working with them to build their confidence.”
* National studies showing the impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health: