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New project to support mental wellbeing in east Suffolk schools

Students at schools in east Suffolk are set to benefit from a brand-new project which aims to support and develop their physical and emotional wellbeing – helping them grow into happy and healthy adults.

The two-year pilot will be led by Vision and Voice, a partnership of six local voluntary and community organisations, headed by the Green Light Trust. The project will see three practitioners and one co-ordinator employed to deliver a range of initiatives at Farlingaye High School in Woodbridge, Northgate High School in Ipswich, Alde Valley Academy in Leiston and Stowupland High School as well as their feeder primary schools from April 2019, potentially reaching over 1000 students during the two year pilot. 

The six organisations – Access Community Trust, Community Praxis, Green Light Trust, Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality, The Mix Stowmarket and Volunteering Matters – will use their specialist knowledge to deliver a ‘culture of change’ at each of the schools, which means that every student will be given the opportunity to achieve to their ability as well as take responsibility for their own wellbeing.

Practical examples of how this will work includes student participation in voluntary community work to raise self-esteem and feeling of worth, using the power of nature to achieve a greater understanding of our responsibility towards the ecological environment and improving cultural understanding to harness respect. 

Vision and Voice will use their knowledge and links with other voluntary, community and statutory organisations to ensure that students are helped to access the most appropriate help and support when they experience emotional distress or concerns.

School staff will also benefit with access to support for their own mental wellbeing. They will also be able to receive training to improve their skills to better deal with the emotional wellbeing needs of their students.

The project is being funded by NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (IESCCG) and Suffolk County Council, working with Suffolk Community Foundation. It forms an integral part of the system-wide Emotional Wellbeing Transformation Plan for east and west Suffolk, which sets out how by 2020 it will improve children and young people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health.

Stephen Singleton, Chief Executive, Suffolk Community Foundation, said: "It's very exciting to see how Suffolk is really getting to grips with solving the challenges faced by our local communities. In these transformational times, partnership is key - by understanding the need first and creating solutions together, I can really see that changing local lives for the better is achievable."

Tom Brown, Green Light Trust Chief Executive Officer, said: We are all incredibly pleased that the diversity and added value that our collective organisations could bring to this pilot was recognised by the funding evaluation panel. We look forward to working with each of the four schools and having the opportunity to show how much can be achieved through collaboration and partnership with the voluntary sector. Our approach centres around supporting the schools' connection to their communities and realising the potential already in the young people in the schools we will be working in."

Councillor Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council Cabinet Member for Children's Services, Education and Skills, said: “Emotional wellbeing and good mental health stem from feeling connected to our communities, having a sense of meaning in our lives and feeling able to contribute and have control over what we do. This approach of working with our voluntary and community organisations to give students tangible experiences, information and skills to achieve and develop their own emotional wellbeing, help them meet their full potential and gives a firm foundation for future life.”

Dr John Hague, mental health lead for IESCCG, said: “The introduction of Vision and Voice is a significant step forward in helping us address the emotional wellbeing needs of our young people in a timely way. The earlier we reach out and offer the right support means there is a much greater chance of that young person developing into a happy and healthy adult who can enjoy a meaningful and worthwhile life.

“It is estimated that one in ten children have a diagnosable significant mental health issue and  one in four who struggle with a mental health condition such as anxiety and depression. It is important we do all we can to give them the best start in life.”

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