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Posted on the 7th October 2021

Over half (59%) of children and young people are experiencing mental health stigma, as a result of peer pressure*.

To help tackle this, on World Mental Health Day this year (October 10), a northwest NHS Trust is encouraging young people and educators to talk more openly about mental health issues. 

Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust (LSCft), which provides mental and physical health support, as well as providing services for those with autism and learning difficulties, is expanding its work with schools to help children and young people.

Sam Tyrer, engagement and prevention lead for the Trust, has secured funding from Health Education England (HEE) to carry out a pilot scheme – Change Talks ‘train the trainer’. Sam explains: “I launched Change Talks four years ago, I wanted to go into schools and have open conversations about the issues facing young people, from anxiety and depression, to eating disorders and bullying. I am open with them about having my own mental health struggles in the past; I find this helps to destigmatise the issue and encourages young people to feel safe about sharing their own concerns.

“We are now just launching a ‘train the trainer’ program which allows me to give teachers all the knowledge they need to have these conversations. As we move forward, all schools will need a mental health lead, as part of the government’s ‘whole school’ approach.  My work with help schools develop their staff into this role.”

One of the most notable increases in demand as a result of the pandemic has been that of people needing help with eating disorders. LSCft saw a 74% increase in demand from Nov 19 to March 20.  National investment has helped the Trust to increase capacity to help the service meet this demand, and it’s an area of focus for Sam’s work. He explains: “Eating disorders have soared over the last 18 months. There are many reasons for this, from people trying to regain some control in a time of uncertainty, to the removal of access to coping mechanisms such as regular exercise and social contact. 

“Every week during the lock down, I broadcast an informal conversation with a team of experts – we called it Mental Health Family Hour. To mark World Mental Health Day, we invited a panel of experts and those with lived experience of eating disorders, to come together to share their knowledge.  You can view this conversation here.”

Caroline Donovan, Chief Executive at LSCft goes on: “The pressures of the last 18 months have taken their toll on many young people. We have seen a huge increase in demand for our services, with a 15%[1] increase in community demand across all our services, with particular focus on eating disorders.

“We really believe that innovative early intervention programs such as Sam’s Change Talks, and the government’s Whole School approach will significantly help children.

“The earlier that we help children experiencing mental health issues, the more likely they are to recover well, and quickly. Normalising these conversations is crucial, and I do think times are changing here, maybe the pandemic has helped us to talk.”

The Trust will be delivering more of this early intervention work, with partners across Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria, with the introduction to schools of specialist Mental Health Support Teams.   

Caroline continues: “The presence of Mental Health Support Teams (MHST) in schools will provide an opportunity to create a school environment that encourages young people to be more open to talking about their mental health, will tackle the stigma of mental health issues, and provide a positive presence within the school to both support and inform wellbeing for young people.

“In the Lancashire and South Cumbria healthcare system, we are delighted to be awarded the required investment to support the further development of MHSTs locally.”

Each school will be allocated Education Mental Health Practitioners, who will have a weekly presence within their allocated schools.  These practitioners will, in addition to scheduled interventions, be present in schools to walk the floors, and to become a known, trusted and recognised face that encourages talking about mental health. Additionally, this practitioner will be accessible to education-based colleagues for advise, support and supervision when emotional health and wellbeing is of concern.

LSCft also operates a self-refer Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). If you are under 18 years old, feeling low and think that you may need some specialist support, you or your family/carer can self-refer, click here to find out more.


Notes to editors:

*From Lancashire Mind Children and Young People survey

Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust provides a range of services including secondary mental health care across this area. Specialist provision comprises inpatient child and adolescent mental health services, perinatal mental health and forensic services including low and medium secure care. The Trust also provides a range of physical health and well-being services in the community alongside a range of partners in the Lancashire and South Cumbria area. The Trust was first established in 2002 and employs approximately 7,000 staff who provide care from more than 400 sites.  

You can find us on Twitter and Facebook at: @WeAreLSCFT

Issued by Charlotte Tuohy at Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust. For more information please email or call 07773 256467.