Child writing on a notepad with a pencil, with pencil sharpening debris next to the hand

Children in Need funding unlocks mental health funding for thousands in the West Midlands

With pupils returning to the classroom on Monday, the West Midlands’ leading mental health charity, Living Well UK, is using funding from BBC Children in Need to support even more young people. Since the start of the pandemic, Living Well UK has helped almost 6,000 young people in the region to receive mental health and wellbeing support. However, now the experts are warning that this number could further skyrocket in the coming weeks.

Facing a combination of back-to-school anxiety, fears of having fallen behind, and the uncertainty of what lessons in the ‘new normal’ will look like, the prospect of getting back to class for returning pupils is a daunting one. However, mental health professionals at Living Well UK are concerned that these ‘first-day nerves’ might be the final straw for many young people, adding to the already huge impact that lockdown and the pandemic have had on their emotional wellbeing.

An emerging study by England’s Mental Health of Children and Young People (MHCYP) survey has shed light for the first time on the direct effects of COVID-anxiety for schoolkids. Worrying stats show a six percent increase in probable mental health problems for those aged 5-16.

With pressure on NHS mental health services – which currently sees the average wait time for children to enter treatment already at 53 days – Living Well UK is eager to provide early intervention and resilience-building support and curb demand. The charity will use Children in Need funding to unlock mental health funding for thousands in the West Midlands.

Living Well UK’s CEO, Ben Howells, commented:

The pandemic has pushed all the existing NHS services to breaking point and mental health is no different. We’re seeing an increasing number of young people being referred into the system, which is leading to longer wait-times for treatment: something which itself adds to mental health worsening. However, exacerbating this even more is that young people discouraged by the wait for treatment are avoiding reaching out for help, until they hit breaking point. Of course, by this time, the problems they are facing are harder to remedy, requiring more time in treatment and the wait-times increasing further.

“This vicious cycle needs to be stopped and the only way to do that is to have expert-led early interventions and resilience-building programmes, which focus on prevention rather than cure. This Children in Need funding will unlock mental health funding for thousands in the West Midlands, so we can scale up the tried-and-tested Living Well UK’s Young People’s Wellbeing Support Programme. I’m confident that this will be a vital step in providing timely mental health help for the region’s children, while also alleviating the strain on NHS services.

In a bid to equip young people with the coping strategies, wellbeing tools, and expert support needed, Living Well UK is further increasing its provision for those aged 11-18. Knowing just how important early intervention methods and holistic support therapies are for children and young people, Living Well UK will use funding from BBC’s Children in Need to roll out free initiatives for those in Birmingham and Solihull.

The young people’s wellbeing support programme gives free access to weekly creative therapies and sporting sessions, as well as regular touchpoints with a qualified children’s therapist, who is on hand to monitor their thoughts and feelings, and deliver therapy and intervention support when necessary.  

“By working with BBC Children in Need, we are able to significantly increase the number of places on the Living Well UK Young People’s Wellbeing Support Programme. We truly believe that this scheme will make a huge difference to so many across the region. We are encouraging young people, as well as their parents, guardians, teachers, and community leaders, to get involved. Free spaces are available for anyone aged 11-18 in Birmingham and Solihull, so sign up today!” concluded Ben.

To find out more about the Living Well UK Young People’s Wellbeing Support Programme and enrol today, head to bit.ly/lwuk-refer-yourself.

Hattie D'Souza