Tackling the Blues (TtB) partners are highlighting Children’s Mental Health Week by encouraging schoolchildren to create an eye-catching artwork to go on public display.
As part of the TtB programme, Edge Hill University, Everton in the Community and Tate Liverpool are working with young people around the region to collectively create ‘Growing Together Trees’ in keeping with the theme of this year’s awareness week.
Leamington Community Primary School in Norris Green, Liverpool, took part in the project as part of its ongoing commitment to address the rise in mental health needs of pupils since the pandemic.
Ciara Maher, Year 4 teacher and mental health lead who trained at Edge Hill, said: “This artwork project is providing our children with the opportunity to be creative and express themselves, and most importantly it removes the stigma around talking about mental health.
“We’ve worked with the Tackling the Blues team over the past year and feel the engagement and enthusiasm of our children reflects the team’s positive impact. Our children are not only gaining knowledge around mental health but are also being taught vital skills to empower them to speak about their mental health.
“The use of art and sports as a teaching strategy and a means for our pupils to proactively embed new knowledge and skills is what makes the Tackling the Blues project so successful in our school.”
The children at Leamington School said the Growing Together Tree activity made them “feel happy” and was “exciting to do”; they said their sessions with Tackling the Blues encouraged them to talk about their emotions and taught them how to help those who were sad. “It’s connected us” said one pupil and “helped us build up our friendships” said another.
The new artwork, co-produced by more than 800 children from primary and secondary schools across Merseyside and West Lancashire, will go on display at Edge Hill and Everton in the Community’s Hub for local communities to enjoy.
Each leaf represents the individual voice of every child who was asked to write a pledge to support their mental health during Children’s Mental Health Week, which runs 7-13 February.
The branches represent the 13 primary schools participating in the activity with ‘advice apples’ representing four secondary schools, each displaying ideas from their pupils to help support primary school children through periods of transition.
Andy Smith, research lead for Tackling the Blues and Professor of Sport and Physical Activity, and Dr Helen O’Keeffe, Faculty of Education and programme lead, said: “Never has there been a more important time to focus on the mental health and wellbeing of children and we are proud to be supporting Children’s Mental Health Week through this programme.
“The theme of growth, both as an individual and supporting that of others, is fundamental to Tackling the Blues. We work with every child, at their pace, to support their mental health and improve their overall wellbeing. It also helps prevent the development of mental illness in the future.
“We hope that all who see the children’s creations will be inspired to reflect on opportunities to support their own wellbeing and mental health.”
Jack Mullineux, Tackling the Blues Lead Coordinator at Everton in the Community, added: “We hope the theme of ‘growing together’ will inspire young people to thrive this Children’s Mental Health Week and beyond.
“As part of Tackling the Blues, we always encourage personal growth and support young people to think about what barriers they have overcome, what skills they have developed and what knowledge they have gained from participating in the programme. We’re really looking forward to seeing the pupils’ hard work come together to form a really unique and inspiring piece of art.”
And Alison Jones, Programme Manager, Public & Community Learning at Tate Liverpool, said: “Children’s Mental Health Week is a significant moment to recognise the importance of supporting the mental health of the youngest members of our society.
“Encouraging young people to develop and use their creative skills is a key tool in raising aspirations and positively impacting wellbeing. We hope the Growing Together Trees project will help raise awareness of this issue and that the Tackling the Blues programme continues to make a difference in the lives of many young people across the North West.”
Tackling the Blues is an award-winning sport and arts-based education programme – funded by the Office for Students and Research England with support from the Premier League Charitable Fund – which supports children and young people aged 6-16 who are experiencing, or are at risk of developing, mental illness.
Since its launch in 2015, Tackling the Blues has made a significant difference to many lives, with participating young people across the Liverpool City Region, Lancashire and now Greater Manchester. Ongoing research and evaluation shows all pupils involved are displaying increased confidence and less anxiety, with improved literacy and emotional intelligence skills.