The sports and arts-based education programme, delivered in partnership between Edge Hill University, Everton in the Community and Tate Liverpool, works with schools across the region to improve understanding of the links between issues like loneliness and mental health problems.
Andy Smith, Edge Hill’s co-lead for Tackling the Blues and Professor of Sport and Physical Activity, said research indicated that loneliness has had a huge impact on the physical and mental health of children and young people, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The increasing prevalence of loneliness and its impact on the mental health of children and young people is a significant global public health problem,” he said. “And it’s particularly concerning in the UK, including in areas where Tackling the Blues is delivered.
Student mentors from Edge Hill work with staff from the three partner organisations to improve mental health literacy and provide support for children and young people.
Primary Education student Charlie Mason, lead mentor for the arts strand, said she decided to volunteer with Tackling the Blues after seeing how her family and friends struggled with their mental health, such as feelings of loneliness and isolation during the pandemic.
The 20-year-old from Leicestershire said:
“You can actually see the positive effect Tackling the Blues is having – I remember an amazing moment in a specialist school when a child I was working with who didn’t speak very often came over to sit on the floor with me and we worked together on drawing our ‘happy place’.
“I’d encourage anyone who is struggling with loneliness to just reach out to someone. One thing I’ve learnt is that people can’t read minds and while you may feel like you’re really struggling, other people may not be able to tell. So just have a conversation – whether in person, online or over the phone – it can really help you feel less alone and more supported.”
Fellow Tackling the Blues co-lead Dr Helen O’Keeffe, Associate Dean of Education, added:
“Forming strong bonds, supporting children and young people through emotionally challenging life events, and tackling the various inequalities and stigma associated with loneliness, is an increasingly important area of our evidence-based work with local schools and communities.”
Activities taking place at Edge Hill during Mental Health Awareness Week which runs from Monday 9 to Sunday 15 May, include daily tips on managing your mental health, free training for staff and students provided by HR and national mental health charity Chasing the Stigma, free art workshops with Tate Liverpool and a free meditation session. For more information click here.
Tackling the Blues is an award-winning sport and arts-based education programme – funded by the Office for Students (OfS) 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.