23 July 2024

Young health champions are catalysts for change

By Tim Nuttall

A team of Youth Health Champions are continuing to help promote mental health and physical wellbeing at Withernsea High School.

Launched in June 2022 in collaboration with Active Withernsea, the health champions programme saw the initial recruitment of eight ambassadors who, through a series of interventions, spread mental and physical health awareness to their peers and the wider community.

Working with the NHS Humber and North Yorkshire Integrated Care Board (ICB), each ambassador completed the Royal Society and Public Health Youth Health Champion Award – a qualification that equips learners with the skills to provide peer support through an understanding of the individual and social drivers of healthy and unhealthy behaviours.

Funded by the ICB, the qualification also provides knowledge of health and well-being issues relevant to the learner. It helps to develop the skills to deliver positive health messages through three mandatory units of study relating to health improvement.

Among the initiatives launched by last year’s ambassadors were a year seven support programme that saw the Youth Health Champions supporting the school’s youngest learners during daily tutor time. Through the building of relationships and trust, the ambassadors became relatable contacts for pupils to talk to as they settled into high school life. The health champions also established Wellbeing Wednesdays – a weekly opportunity for the rest of the student body to meet the ambassadors to receive mental and physical wellbeing support in accessible locations around the school during break and lunch times.

Finally, expanding their work into the wider community, the health champions were given the opportunity to work alongside Active Withernsea to help address health issues and promote positive ideas. As part of this work, the team also visited local primary schools where they led wellbeing sessions for younger pupils.

A spokesperson for Active Withernsea said: “The Youth Health Champions at Withernsea High School are an inspiring group of students who are passionate about promoting wellbeing. These enthusiastic teens have taken the initiative to spread mental and physical health awareness to their peers. As we celebrate World Mental Health Day, it is important to recognise the vital role that Youth Health Champions play in advocating for better health education, resources, and support systems. On this day of global awareness, we thank the Youth Health Champions for their courage, compassion, and determination. They are the leaders that give us hope for a future where mental and physical health is prioritised, and all young lives can reach their full potential.”

Following the success of last year’s launch, the school has recruited a new team of Youth Health Champions for the current academic year who will continue the positive work from last year while bringing new ideas to the scheme.

The Active Withernsea spokesperson added: “We are excited to see what initiatives the second cohort of Youth Health Champions are going to put in place. The Youth Health Champions programme at Withernsea High School demonstrates the power of peer support. These students are catalysts for change, empowering their community to develop positive lifelong habits that benefit both physical and mental wellbeing. The school and the wider community should be immensely proud of their exceptional Youth Health Champions. The difference they are making in students’ lives today will have impacts that last for generations. Our health champions of tomorrow are here today, and the future looks bright.”

Research from the Mental Health Foundation, the UK’s leading charity for mental health, suggests that 75 per cent of children and young people nationally who experience mental health problems are not getting the help they need.

The charity aims to deliver the message that children’s emotional wellbeing is just as important as their physical health, with good mental health helping young people to develop the resilience to cope with life and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults. The Mental Health Foundation supports World Mental Health Day which this year took place on Tuesday, October 10.