A £10m Lottery grant awarded to Blackpool today is set to help prevent thousands of young people from suffering mental health problems as they grow up.
The money has been awarded to the town’s HeadStart programme following a successful £500,000 trial.
Already over the last 18 months, 1,200 young people have benefitted from schemes such a ‘Walk and Talk’ where young people have had counselling sessions outside the normal setting of the meeting room.
Instead of traditional face-to-face sessions, youngsters have chatted to counsellors at parks, animal sanctuaries and in kitchens.
Taylor Morrison Eaves, 18, chairman of the Young People’s Executive Group which has helped develop the HeadStart programme, said: “If someone had told me three years ago I would now be finishing a Performing Arts Course at college with amazing grades and going to university doing something I’ve wanted to do, and have the confidence to perform at the Grand Theatre, I wouldn’t have believed them.
“And it’s mostly thanks to HeadStart Blackpool.
“HeadStart Blackpool has taught me so many new skills that are so useful in various situations. They’ve taught me interview techniques, how to lead a workshop, evaluation skills and so much more that is going to come in handy in the future.
“I think HeadStart Blackpool is vital for the young people in Blackpool and the young people who will join us in the future.
“Building resilience is key to helping young people have the strength and confidence to face life’s adversities and ask for help when they need it.”
The funding will mean every one of Blackpool’s 10,937 10 to 16-year-olds is able to receive help.
Coun Graham Cain, cabinet secretary at Blackpool Council, said: “Having an approach which makes our young people more resilient is so important.
“It’s easier to get on in life and overcome challenges if you feel emotionally strong and have a way of coping.
“Only our young people know what growing up in Blackpool in 2016 is like, and they have taken the lead in teaching us how this investment can work for them.”
Lyn Cole, Big Lottery Fund England grant-making director, said: “Mental health issues in early teens, if not tackled early, can develop into more serious conditions, impacting on school results and opportunities later on in life.
“HeadStart has been developed with young people to ensure mental health is embedded in a school’s culture and pupils’ emotional welfare is recognised as fundamental to their overall achievement.
“This will raise awareness, tackle stigma and enable young people to seek the support they need.
“This funding will make a huge difference to the development of young people at a crucial time in their lives.”