Charity Awards 2024

Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families

Starting a conversation about mental health

The Anna Freud Centre combines research, clinical practice and training to pioneer better mental health care and support for children and their families.

Youth mental health – the area of the charity’s work – is increasingly seen as a pressing public policy priority. Three quarters of adult mental health problems start before the age of 18. Therefore early intervention is vital. Schools are on the frontline when it comes to managing young people’s mental health, with 92 per cent of primary school teachers in England believing they have a crucial role in identifying pupils who have a problem. However, only 10 per cent felt confident about what to do when a child experiences one. Additionally, many children do not speak to someone for a long time for fear of stigma, bullying or being a burden.

Talking Mental Health is designed to address this. It is an animation and teacher toolkit co-developed by children, parents/carers, teachers and clinicians to improve emotional literacy and facilitate everyday conversations about mental health at schools and beyond. The animation and accompanying materials were disseminated via the Centre’s first national campaign.

Schools are inundated with resources that provide advice, but few are evidence-based. None had previously focused on starting conversations and how to talk and listen to others about mental health. There are also very few co-produced resources available featuring children’s voices.

An estimated 500,000 children in England have engaged with the animation and/or resources. Evaluation found that after a one-hour Talking Mental Health PSHE lesson, Year 5 children demonstrated improved awareness in help-seeking for their own and their friend’s mental health issues, and improved confidence on where to get advice.

CC reg no: 1077106

Children and youth category sponsor: