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All secondary schools to receive free mental health resource for 11-14 year olds

Today every secondary school in England will receive an animation and assembly and lesson plans designed to encourage children and young people starting out at secondary school to talk about their mental health and to listen to their friends when they feel overwhelmed.

The animation comes at a time of increased concern about the mental health of young people with figures showing the number of adolescents reporting long-term mental health problems has increased tenfold since 1995.

Launched by Kate Silverton, fresh from Strictly Come Dancing success, the We all have mental health animation and assembly and lesson plans developed by the Anna Freud Centre aims to help young people talk about mental health and support their friends.

In the animation pupils will explore the lives of Sasha and André who are struggling with their emotions. Sasha experiences the ‘everyday’ feelings that we all feel, which can feel powerful at times but which do not interfere with their functioning. André’s feelings on the other hand are overwhelming and persistent. These are sometimes called a mental health problem, illness or disorder.

Jaime Smith, Director for the Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools Programme at the Anna Freud Centre said: “There is nothing more important than for young people to feel a sense of belonging. When feelings become persistent young people can feel isolated. This animation aims to encourage young people to understand their experience and to seek help and help others who need it.

“The new emphasis on promoting child mental health in schools is a welcome move to help us promote wellbeing, and one that the teaching profession has consistently supported. Schools are at the heart of this drive and we want to do everything we can to support them in this work.”

The animation makes an important distinction between everyday feelings that come and go and long-lasting, overwhelming feelings that become a problem. By watching and discussing the film the charity hope to help young people know how and when to ask for mental health support.

Kate Silverton said: “We all have mental health. It’s as vital as our physical health so there is nothing more important in life than to take care of it. 

“We are becoming more aware as a society of how best to discuss issues that might be affecting us, but it can seem confusing and sometimes too awkward to seek help. One thing I have learned is that by opening up and by confiding in someone we trust, our fears can be overcome.  

“I do think it is tough for teenagers and adolescents. We are learning more about brain development and at this age many young people find it very hard to reach out. The animation created by the Anna Freud Charity is so wonderful as it cuts to the heart of the matter and I hope will help young people to know there is nothing ‘wrong with them’ it’s just another part of growing up that can be overcome but also that they can seek help if they feel they need it.

“We now know that most mental health problems start before a child is 15 and 50% of problems in adult life take root before the age of 15 and that’s why it’s so important to provide help at this stage and help stop problems getting out of control.”

The animation has been co-designed by young people and is aimed at 11 to 14-year-olds when most children and young people are going through adolescence. At this age children’s brains develop rapidly and they are likely to experience mood changes. They may feel misunderstood, isolated and not know who or where to turn to for help and are less likely to talk to their parents preferring to seek help from their friends.

The animation and teaching resources have been sent by a link to all schools in England. The resources include lesson plans and an assembly plan to help teachers discuss some of the issues raised.

Alongside the animation, the Centre is also re-launching its national wellbeing directory which allows people to search for local mental health services for those up to age 25 by postcode; a jargon buster to help young people understand their options in simple language; and information about working with services and understanding treatments and referrals.

The aim is to help children and young people understand and engage in mental health services and for those who feel disengaged from mental health services to find alternative support.

Watch our We all have mental health animation and download our accompanying teacher toolkit.