Article by Charlie Waller Memorial Trust
But evidence shows young people can learn skills to protect themselves. One small but growing charity is in the business of giving teachers the confidence to provide first line support that can make a real difference to children’s lives.
The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust was set up in 1997 in memory of Charlie Waller, a young man who took his own life whilst suffering from depression. Today, the Trust reaches thousands of children and young people through its work in schools, offering free training and resources to teachers, pupils and parents. The Trust’s approach is based on evidence derived from clinical and academic research. Its sister organisation, the Charlie Waller Institute (CWI), based at the University of Reading, carries out research on a wide range of topics and the Trust also works closely with ANdY, the anxiety and depression research clinic also based at the University. Research studies recently undertaken by CWI and ANdY include diet and depression in adolescents, assessing anxiety in preschool children, and self-image and depression in adolescents.
Also key to the Trust’s approach is its policy of employing trainers with a very wide range of expertise and experience. They include teachers and headteachers, PSHE and SEN specialists, chartered clinical psychologists, counsellors, youth workers and registered mental nurses. Several of them also have direct experience of mental health problems, which they use constructively to inform their sessions.
The Trust’s objective is to help schools build their capacity to look at mental health and wellbeing in the round, using the eight key principles developed by Public Health England and the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition.
Centred on leadership and management that champions emotional health and wellbeing, these principles are designed to guide schools in adopting a whole school approach, of which looking after staff wellbeing is a key component.
The Trust’s support packages are tailored to schools’ needs, and can include:
• Training sessions for all school staff, students, parents and carers
• A cascade training model where appropriate to enable staff to train their colleagues
• Digital support materials
• Print resources
• Follow-up sessions to review the practical outcomes of the training
Eminent psychologist Prof. Steve Hollon, who has worked with the Charlie Waller Institute, says: “Studies have shown that adolescents at risk by virtue of having a family history of depression but not currently depressed themselves can learn skills that protect them from becoming depressed and that this preventive effect can last across their adolescence.”
CWMT uses the findings of academic research to develop practical classroom resources such as its Wellbeing Action Plan, popular with staff and students and co-created with young people. The charity has also published a downloadable sample Mental Health and Well-being.
Clare Stafford, the Trust’s CEO, says, “Although one-off training sessions can be helpful, our focus is now on developing longer-term relationships with schools. This enables them to develop an approach to wellbeing which works for them in a sustainable and practical way.”
For more information about the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, please visit www.cwmt.org.uk