Mental health charity Beyond has been praised by school staff and parents for its first children’s mental health festival last week.
The Now and Beyond Festival on Inside Out Day was a nationwide mental health and wellbeing festival for primary and secondary schools and colleges held last Wednesday, 3 February.
Tricia Davies Nearn, Senior Designated Mental Health Lead at Southfields Academy, Merton said: “It was a great idea and they had a lot of creative workshops and webinars available.”
She also praised the resources that were provided, including the practical skills that the workshops had given the pupils.
Webinars varied from sessions on suicide prevention and resilience building to creative therapies, and children were encouraged to wear their clothes inside out.
NHS Digital research found that in July 2020 one in six children aged 5-16 had a probable mental disorder, a significant increase from one in nine from 2017.
Davies Nearn explained that she’d seen two distinct trends in mental health among pupils at her school over lockdown: anxious students who struggled with being in school have done well in lockdown, but those going through transitions have been negatively impacted.
“Anxious students love it because they are in their place of comfort and known. They know their own space and they don’t have to worry about anything, so that, I suppose, was a bit of a surprise,” she explained.
“I think what’s been really, really hard is for the kids that are facing transitions, not knowing if they’re going to get to do their exams or have their exams cancelled and dealing with that kind of uncertainty and disappointment.”
She believes that a cultural shift is needed to make a change for the better with youth mental health.
“We have a long way to go as a culture and there are a lot of kids who can talk about their mental health to me, but they can’t talk about it with their families. That’s really heartbreaking,” she said.
“There’s a lot of denial out there. It’s cultural, generational, there’s a lot of reasons for it. That’s a much harder egg to crack.”
However, she thinks that events like the Now and Beyond Festival help to break down these barriers.
“I think the more it’s mentioned and is part of what you see around the school and what you hear about round the school, it normalises it and just makes it less scary to bring it up,” she added.
The festival, which was held during Children’s Mental Health Week, was attended by over 1000 schools across the UK and further afield, such as New York, Prague, and Hong Kong.
“We created this festival to address the immense need for mental health support and resources right now,” Louisa Rose, founder of the Now and Beyond Festival, explained.
“Sadly there’s a huge disparity between government spending on children’s mental health services compared to adults’ mental health services.”
With referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services currently being so high, Rose believes that without an increase in spending on children’s mental health services, children will continue to suffer from mental health problems.
“The festival created more new mental health and wellbeing relationships in one day for schools and colleges than the Government has been able to do in years,” she said.
Webinars from the day can be watched here.
Featured image: Shenley Primary School children wearing their tops inside out. Credit: Beyond