Child mental health initiative is launched

Speakers gathered at the Schools for Hope Conference at Magee this week.
Speakers gathered at the Schools for Hope Conference at Magee this week.
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A project aimed at looking after children’s mental health and well-being has been launched in Derry.

A major conference was staged at Ulster University’s Magee Campus on Monday to launch the ‘Schools for Hope’ initiative.

Schools for Hope is a curriculum project developed by the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred).

The programme is based on research that suggests hope is a teachable skill, and aims are to equip children and young people, their educators and parents with the tools they need to find and maintain hope even during the most trying of times.

The project is led by the Health Improvement Service of the Western Health and Social Care Trust in partnership with iFred, The Outer West Neighbourhood Renewal Partnership and its community partners, Ulster University and local primary and post primary schools in the area.

A pilot programme was implemented over a 10 week period in five primary schools and two secondary schools in the Derry and Strabane areas.

Kathryn Goetzke, iFred Founder, said: “We developed this programme based on the shocking statistic, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, that one in nine kids were self-reporting suicide attempts prior to graduating high school, with a jump at age 11. We knew we couldn’t address everyone, so we started at the critical age of 10 to help build skills at this time.”

Marie Dunne, pioneer of the programme and Western Trust Mental Health Specialist commented on the cutting edge programme, stating that:

“The aim of this project is to equip young people with information, knowledge and skills that will give them the personal self-esteem to nurture healthy relationships with themselves and those around them to improve their quality of life.

“Above all, it will also teach them to have hope and the additional skills of understanding and managing their own mental well-being.”