First ever UK-wide ‘early help’ school programme for teenage depression has 70 per cent success rate
One third of 15 to 18-year-olds assessed by leading UK charity, Action for Children are suffering from mental health and emotional wellbeing issues, new research revealed today.
A study based on over 5,000 questionnairesi completed by secondary school pupils across the UK, found that 33 per cent were struggling with many experiencing problems on a regular basis. Common issues included:
• Feeling depressed
• Restless sleep
• Inability to shake negative feelings, even with the help of friends and family
• An inability to ‘get going’
• Struggling to focus their mind on what they are doing
• Everything feeling ‘an effort’
Pupils in need of support were offered a place in the ‘Blues Programme’ – the first nationwide programme of its kind to deliver proven ‘early help’ for depression in secondary schools. Run by children’s charity Action for Children at 37 schools across the UK, the programme is aimed at teenagers aged between 15 to 18.
A massive 70 per centii of pupils who have taken part so far, showed an improvement in their mental health and emotional wellbeing, with a specific decrease in depression. Pupils also reported increased confidence and self-esteem, improved relationships and better engagement at school.
Funded by Royal Mail, the Blues Programme is part of Action for Children’s ‘Build Sound Minds’ campaign which encourages positive conversation and good mental health. The programme is based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy methods and helps young people understand the connection between negative thoughts, actions and feelings over a period of six weeks.
15- year-old Rowan completed the Blues Programme at Whitchurch High School in Cardiff after suffering from low moods and anxiety.
She says: “I couldn’t really focus on things properly. There were scary periods where I was getting very anxious and not doing as well as I usually do at school as my mind was elsewhere. I tried to keep how I was feeling to myself and deal with the problems alone, but I didn’t know what to do. My friends noticed a difference in me and kept asking me what was wrong.
“It probably seems quite a small thing but learning how to deal with my problems in a new way has made more of a difference than I could have imagined. I would be in a terribly dark place now if I hadn’t learnt how to do it.”
With a 52 per cent increase over the past three years in the number of children and young people coming to Action for Children for help with mental health issues, the charity is warning early intervention is urgently needed to tackle the crisis.
Julie Bentley, Action for Children’s Chief Executive, said: “It’s troubling that so many of our young people are dealing with issues of depression and anxiety – and all too often alone.
“Every day at Action for Children, we support teenagers who are really struggling for a number of reasons. Young people are increasingly concerned about their futures as they become more aware of the political environment around them. Many are dealing with the intense pressure of school work, others are experiencing problems at home. Add in navigating an increasingly complex 24/7 world with constant stimulation from social media, and things often become too much for young people to handle.
“Getting help early can help stop some mental health problems in their tracks, but without quicker investment and targeted support from the government many young people will continue to struggle. If they don’t get the help they need early we will see even higher levels of mental health problems as they reach adulthood.”
Sue Rogers, children services manager at Action for Children, oversees the pioneering programme across the UK. She adds: “What we have seen is a desire among the teenagers we have worked with for more of this early intervention. One boy said he thought everyone should do the Blues programme to help them deal with low levels of anxiety before they escalate.”
i An epidemiology questionnaire was used to determine the mental health and emotional wellbeing of students based on a series of positive and negative responses. Pupils rated questions in relation to how they had felt within the previous seven days. Students who scored over 20 out of a possible 60 were offered a place on the Blues Programme.
ii 620 students benefitted from the Blues intervention from October 2017 -July 2018, with 420 pupils completing a questionnaire at the end of the programme to review its effectiveness.
As well as an overall improvement in mental health and emotional wellbeing, other key findings from the Blues Programme showed:
• Increased confidence by over (87 %)
• A clear boost to their self-esteem (83 %)
• Improved relationships with friends and family (84 %)
• Better relationships at school (82 %)
• Increased involvement in lessons (80%)
Pioneered in the United Statesii, the programme is based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy methods and aims to support pupils to understand the connection between their negative thoughts, actions and feelings. The UK Blue programme aims to reach 8,000 young people by 2020.