Schools and communities across the UK connect for Children’s Mental Health Week 2023
The theme of Children’s Mental Health Week 2023 was Let’s Connect, and we encouraged people to make healthy, rewarding, and meaningful connections.
New data demonstrates importance of connections
Ahead of the Week, on Friday 3 February, we released new Place2Be data which revealed that 78% of young people seen by a Place2Be counsellor within the last year have experienced anxiety in social situations. The data, released exclusively with BBC Newsround, also shows that 65% of children and young people seen by Place2Be counsellors in the last year had difficulties interacting with their classmates.
A lack of meaningful connection is a key driver in loneliness and anxiety, so it is important that young people establish friendships which can allow them to support one another. Our Programme Leader for Family Work, Judah Racham, shared some tips for parents and carers on how to support children to make friends.
The Princess of Wales launches the Week
To mark the start of the Week, we were delighted that The Princess of Wales, Royal Patron of Place2Be, came to visit one of our partner schools in east London to meet pupils and discuss the importance of connecting with others. In an exclusive video, The Princess joins children at St John’s CE Primary School in Bethnal Green as they take part in creative activities to help them think and talk about who they feel most connected to in their lives.
Young people and stars on the importance of connection
The Week also saw young people and stars from across TV, film, radio and sport open up on the importance of connection. In our How we connect: in conversation with Josh Smith series, secondary school students shared their experiences of social media, the pandemic, friendships and more. Our BAFTA’s Let’s Connect series saw stars Dermot O’Leary, Clara Amfo, and Big Zuu reflect on how they connect with others.
On social media, we were overwhelmed by the support for the Week, which included posts and activities from Premier League football teams including Manchester United and West Ham United, rugby union club Sale Sharks and Basketball England.
England football captain Harry Kane shared a series of posts throughout the Week promoting Place2Be’s tips and advice. Place2Be supporters, Ambassadors and Champions – including Paloma Faith, Rhys Stephenson, Kate Silverton and Ricky Martin – also championed the Week on their social media channels.
The Week provided an opportunity for us to have important conversations about children and young people’s mental health and the need for cross-sector connections.
In a blog for the NHS Confederation, Place2Be’s CEO reflected on the need to tackle inequalities to better support young people’s mental health. In a joint blog with NAHT (the school leaders' union), our Policy and Public Affairs Manager explored the role that schools play in helping children’s mental health and call for a properly funded network of support services.
We also joined forces with leaders from across the sector to pen a joint letter to The Telegraph. The letter called on decision makers to be ambitious and devise a long-term plan for the wellbeing of all of our children and young people.
Support from politicians and decision-makers
On Monday 6 February, the #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek hashtag was one of the most used by MPs, and it continued to be highly used all week, with politicians from across England, Scotland and Wales showing their support on social media. This included supportive tweets from 10 Downing Street and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, Minister for Mental Health, Department for Health and Social Care, Department for Education, and the NHS. The Week was also raised in the House of Commons.
We were also delighted to have the support of Dame Rachel De Souza, the Children’s Commissioner for England. On the Week, she said:
“As we reach the end of Children’s Mental Health Week, it has been fantastic to see so many schools, families and individuals taking part and encouraging us all to connect with each other in healthy, rewarding and meaningful ways.
"In The Big Ask, a survey of half a million children I carried out when I first took office, children told me that they really value their friendships and relationships with family, and they want to feel a part of a community – because these things are so vital for our mental wellbeing.
“Being on social media can be a great way to connect with people, but increasingly children are talking to me about the negative impact of being online. This week has provided us with a valuable opportunity to have a national conversation about what good mental health looks like - but we have to stay focused on these issues all year round, so no child has to face mental health problems alone."
Schools across the UK (and the world!) took part in the week. From photos and videos of your Dress to Express days, to images of your Paperchains and Puzzle Pieces, it was great to see so many of you embracing the theme this year and helping raise vital funds for Place2Be.
We also saw hundreds of schools take on the Taskmaster Education puzzles - making rainbows, making self-portraits, and choreographing dances.
Thank you to everyone who got involved! So far, 1,386 schools have added themselves to our map and told us how they took part, reaching over 500,000 children and young people and over 58,000 adults.
We want to say a big thank you to players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, The Beaverbrook Foundation and The Prudence Trust, who supported this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week.