Mental health among children and young people is a growing and urgent issue. In 2017, the NHS reported that over 12% of 5-19 year olds had a diagnosable mental illness . A follow-up study in 2020 indicated that this had increased to 16%2. And in 2022 the British Psychological Society reported that the number of children and young people seeking mental health support had increased by 55% over the past two years.
Many parents and carers are deeply concerned about their children’s mental health and want to help them to build mentally healthy lives – but don’t know where to start.
Over the last few years – funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research, and Innovate UK – Family Mental Wealth has been working with a team of families, academic and clinical experts, and cuttingedge app developers to create Headway, a set of digital tools for phones and tablets. These tools are designed specifically to help children and young people to build mentally healthy lives – focusing on how to prevent or reduce the risk of mental ill-health. The tools draw on evidence-based therapeutic approaches researched by the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex – making them accessible for use by children
and young people, supported by their parents and carers.
‘Our passion’, says Family Mental Wealth co-founder Nick Pollard, ‘is to see Headway used by families across the country, and to turn the tide of children’s mental health.’
15 year old GCSE student Emilia Griffiths is one of the young people involved in developing the Headway app. ‘It’s been an exciting journey sharing my views and creative ideas,’ she enthused. ‘I have felt like an integral part of the team. My hope is that young people see the real benefits in applying the skills and tools to stay
Dr Faith Orchard, from the University of Sussex, added, ‘For many years, psychologists have developed and tested interventions to help young people build mentally healthy lives. These interventions are typically delivered by clinicians, which can make them hard to access for many young people and their families. But, with support from parents and carers, some of these interventions can be made accessible to all through digital selfhelp tools on their phones. We are delighted to see what Family Mental Wealth have done with them.’
Rich Strachan, CEO of 3 Sided Cube (whose technical team developed the digital tools), commented, ‘At 3 Sided Cube, we build tech for good. It’s our mission to change millions of lives for the better, and we have absolutely loved working with Family Mental Wealth on this project that will help young people across the world to build mentally healthy lives.’
The key 4 digital tools which families are invited to try out during November and December are:
• Happy Place – this looks a bit like a social media feed but is designed to build the child’s mental health. Here they can store photos, videos or text – anything that might help them in the future when they feel sad, or lonely, or worried.
• Activity Diary – this is a very powerful tool to use throughout the day. At any time, the child can enter what they are doing and how they feel. They can then look back at the Activity Diary and click on the different feelings, to work out what sort of things they might decide to do more often in the future to build their mental health.
• Just One Thing – this is a bit like a daily journal. It helps the child to think about how they felt during the day and reflect on one good thing that happened. They then see inspirational quotes that help them to think about life and their experiences, and they can enter, in their own words, one thing that they have learnt through this – about themselves, or life in general – that might help build their mental health.
• Hold that Thought – this is a clever digital tool that helps children to video-record their worries, and their later reflections, so they can remember and learn from their past experiences and not worry so much in the future.
Available for interviews linked to this project: Nick Pollard, 66, is a former research psychologist who co-founded Family Mental Wealth with his wife, Carol, and their daughter Dr Elizabeth McNaught (an NHS doctor), having supported Dr McNaught in her recovery from mental ill-health in her teenage years. He lives in Southampton. Emilia Griffiths, 15, is a GCSE student. Having known many people who have experienced poor mental health, she is keen to improve communication within families, schools and communities to make sure that everyone has the skills they need to navigate life’s challenges and build their mental health. She lives in Bournemouth.
You can find out more about Headway and the work of Family Mental Wealth by visiting www.FamilyMentalWealth.com/Headway or by following Family Mental Wealth on Twitter or Facebook.
Written by: Kate Laver