New activities for schoolchildren could 'help their mental health', experts claim

File image of a child playing on a computer
File image of a child playing on a computer

Last year, The Gazette revealed how primary schools in Blackpool were referring children to mental health specialists at a rate of more than one per week, with a team set up specially to look after them.

Around one-in-10 under-19s in the resort will suffer from a mental illness in the future, it was estimated, and early intervention can “drastically improve their future prospects”, health chiefs said.

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That followed a warning from the ex-headteacher at Hodgson Academy in Poulton, Toni Roething, who said in 2016 schools were being “overwhelmed” by poorly children.

Linda Morrison, a lecturer at the University of Cumbria who worked as a community mental health nurse across Blackpool for several years, previously said a change in youngsters’ lifestyles over the past 20 years, since the digital revolution, could be contributing to poor mental health.

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She said: “Children are much more sedentary now than they were in the past. With so many children having access to social media and electronic toys, they are not socialising as much.

“This has had an impact on issues such as obesity. You also need to consider the lack of physical exercise on their mental health, and issues such as social isolation, bullying, and depression or anxiety.”

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And Anna Feuchtwang, the chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said: “Our research has shown that significant numbers of children grow up suffering poor mental health.

“Part of the remedy lies in developing a firm foundation of wellbeing and resilience in children and young people, both at home and at school.

“We welcome this effort to immerse children and young people in activities that can build their confidence, develop their curiosity and support their growth beyond academic attainment, so they can enjoy emotional wellbeing throughout their lives.”