Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 – Q&A with Headstart Mental Health Transformation Officer

Earlier this week, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we announced the expansion of our Headstart programme across the North West of England.

Headstart, which has supported almost a thousand pupils since it began with the milestone transition from primary to secondary school will be delivered by a further seven EFL Club Community Organisations (CCOs)

The 11 CCOs will work in schools, providing one to one or group support, in either a classroom environment or delivering sessions, like yoga and mindfulness, through dedicated Mental Health Transformation Officers.

Meet Rachel Walker, one of the first Mental Health Transformation Officers in post, making a big difference already in her area. We caught up with the Fleetwood Town Community Trust team member…

How did you hear about this new role?

I saw this role advertised online whilst I was completing my Masters degree in Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Wellbeing. As I was already working with this age group at a local youth club, I felt it was the perfect role for me to apply for to support with their transition to secondary school.

  What type of sessions do you deliver in schools?

There are a variety of sessions included to ensure the children are learning different methods to support their wellbeing. So far, I have delivered sessions such as mindfulness, creativity, physical activity (yoga) and player visits. I also then deliver one-to-one sessions with specific children which aims to offer a safe space with interventions involving anxiety, anger and coping strategies.

 Why are they important for young people?

These sessions are important for young people because it allows them to see that mental health is normal. The majority of the children are Fleetwood Town FC fans so for me to be wearing the Club’s badge, discussing mental health and ways to enhance wellbeing is really important for them.

How are the young people and schools responding to your sessions?

The young people and the schools are responding really well to the sessions. The children are always excited to have me back as we learn about different mental health topics and coping strategies. The schools have received some great feedback about the benefit of these sessions, especially in how I will follow these Year 6 children to Year 7. In turn, this offers a familiar face from their primary school, who they know can continue this support whilst they settle in and transition to secondary school. The young people and the schools are reporting back that the children are acknowledging ways to cope with their feelings and often say ‘we have done this with Rachel’.