Mental health project for local schools

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A pioneering new programme to help teenagers who show early signs of mental health problems in Londonderry has been launched by leading charity Action for Children in Northern Ireland.

The Blues Programme is initially being brought to schools in Londonderry and a number of schools have already signed up to the project in a move fully funded by the charity’s partner, Royal Mail.

Specially trained practitioners, called ‘Blues Busters’, will work with teenagers to introduce the first phase of the programme in other specially selected schools and colleges in Londonderry.

The skills and knowledge passed on will provide young people with cognitive restructuring techniques to identify and challenge feelings which cause anxiety, as well as an understanding of coping strategies and how to apply these skills to life.

Action for Children Northern Ireland Director Dawn Shaw explained: “We are aware of the concern around mental health from the young people and families who use our services right across Northern Ireland.

“This is an increasing area of concern for young people, we know they are experiencing issues around anxiety and depression. We are very pleased that we have been able to bring the Blues Programme to Northern Ireland with the help of our partners at Royal Mail.

“Currently we are running the programme in two areas in Downpatrick and Londonderry. Already we have seen an impact with young people able to talk about concerns and to learn new ways of dealing with their concerns through the Blues programme. We hope we will be able to secure further funding to roll this out widely across Northern Ireland so we can give young people the skills to help improve their mental health and wellbeing.”

Royal Mail’s Christopher Lees added: “We have a long running relationship with Action for Children and recently our Penny Black Club at the mail centre has to date raised £7000 for the charity through a number of activities and events.

“Here in the Mail Centre we have also been running awareness sessions on the good work Action for Children carry out and support throughout the year, including the Blues Programme which we think is hugely important and we are delighted the Programme has now been launched in Northern Ireland.

“The team at Royal Mail will be continuing to support Action for Children throughout our three year partnership in many other fundraising events but also in raising awareness and knowledge with our people.”

Sue Rogers, national programme lead for the Blues Programme at Action for Children, said: “We’re committed to making sure that any child who needs help gets help and selected this programme with our partners at Royal Mail because it has a proven track record in the USA and we are already seeing great results in the UK too.

“Feedback shows that in many cases it helps to prevent the onset of serious depression and supports young people to feel healthier, happier and get involved in more positive activities.

“This is a fun and engaging group-work programme that works with young people to help them to understand why they are feeling down and find ways to improve the way they feel.

“With the support of Royal Mail, we hope to make this programme accessible to more schools and organisations in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.”