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A Million & Me: continued support in Children’s Mental Health Week

To mark Children’s Mental Health Week (1 February 2021), Paddy Sloan, the Director of BBC Children in Need’s impact programme, A Million & Me, which is dedicated to supporting children and young people with their emotional wellbeing, tells us more.

A year ago I wrote a blog to mark Children’s Mental Health Week 2020; at the time of writing, I had no idea of the challenges ahead. The impact of COVID-19 on the mental wellbeing of children and young people across the UK has been devastating. From sadness to loneliness, anxiety and fear, the effect of Covid-19 on children’s mental health and emotional wellbeing will be widespread and long lasting, but through programmes like A Million & Me – made possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters – we can fund projects providing expert help, support and care to those who are struggling.

A Million & Me funds work across the UK, locally and digitally, that enables children aged 8-13 to be supported in positive relationships among their peers, parents, carers and trusted adults in their lives.

Half of all adult mental health conditions are embedded by the age of 14; by focusing on children aged 8-13, A Million & Me aims to provide support at an early stage, before mental health problems are established. Projects funded by A Million & Me are there when children begin to struggle with their feelings, offering opportunities to share concerns safely and respectfully, with access to information and referral pathways. A Million & Me funds work that offers children the help they need, how, when and where they want it, before resort to clinical intervention.

The power of early intervention could be seen in an Appeal film we broadcast in November 2020, which told the story of Skyler, who was feeling anxious and sad after the death of his beloved grandfather.

Skyler’s GP referred him to The Wave Project for their Prescription Surf programme.  The Wave Project benefit from a three-year grant of £296,940 to deliver Prescription Surf, a social prescribing model providing evidence-based intervention for children aged 8-13, which is embedded in local GP surgeries to enable direct referrals to reach even more children and young people in need of support. The power of getting in the sea, surfing and expressing his feelings made an enormous difference to Skyler’s mental health and wellbeing and continues to make a difference to other children and young people in need of support.

Skyler’s Story

BBC Children in Need funds Sam, a project worker who coordinates The Wave Project’s Prescription Surf project, which is also part of our A Million & Me funding programme.

It seems fitting that in Children’s Mental Health Week we are announcing new funding awards which exemplify this year’s theme of ‘Express Yourself’ and support the A Million & Me message to encourage children and young people to share their feelings, and those around them – friends, family and trusted adults – to listen with empathy and care.

The Proud Trust has been awarded a six month grant of £64,900 to pilot a digital support service to upskill, inform and support adults who have stable, trusted relationships with LGBTQ+ children under 13, with the aim of reducing feelings of loneliness and anxiety.  Through the pilot, The Proud Trust will develop a digital help service for trusted adults who are supporting young people with queries or worries about gender identity and sexuality, build a suite of online content to support both trusted adults and under 13s and look to develop an ecosystem of skilled support for national LGBTQ+ services supporting children and young people.

In addition, the WOW Foundation has been awarded a grant of £88,800 to support the delivery of a ten month project designed to engage 120 girls and non-binary young people from communities across the UK who have benefited from support from BBC Children in Need funded projects that address local disadvantage. The project will encourage participants to explore activism and gender equality in a fun and accessible way. They will convene monthly online to discuss the issues that matter most to them regarding gender equality and will use these discussions as a stimulus to create artwork, audio and video content and written word that will form the world’s first ever Lending Library curated with, by and for girls.

In the spirit of this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week I would like to highlight  a couple of other projects funded through A Million & Me which empower and encourage expression and conversation.

Parent Zone provide access to expert advice to support conversations between children and parents and Stormbreak deliver online sessions designed to improve five core concepts of mental health – resilience, self-care and self-regulation, relationships, hope and optimism and self-worth.

For further information on projects funded through A Million & Me and resources to support children and young people’s mental wellbeing, head over to our A Million & Me hub.

Paddy Sloan, Director, BBC Children in Need’s A Million & Me programme
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