New Project Reducing the Number of North East Children Reaching Mental Health Crises

Worrit Warriors

Children North East have joined forces with award-winning local organisation Mortal Fools to reduce the number of North East children reaching mental health crises.

We’ll be working with 14 North East schools offering support via a new project called ‘Worrit Warriors’ specifically targeting children facing challenges with their mental health.

Starting this month, ‘Worrit Warriors’ will work with over 120 pupils aged 9 to 11, including those that have shared thoughts about suicide and self-harming to the adults in their lives.

Whilst these are often thought of as issues most common amongst teenagers, there has also been a significant rise in recent years in the treatment of pre-teen mental health disorders, with over 3,000 North East children hospitalised due to mental health conditions, self-harm and disordered eating every year; a number which is growing.

Children who struggle with their mental health at the crucial developmental age of 7 to 11 years are also more at risk of a mental health crisis before adulthood and developing long-term problems.

Adele Wimhurst, Counselling Team Manager at Children North East, explains, “Children are often overlooked as having an emotional life which is not very complicated, but the reality is that they are often dealing with ‘big’ feelings and experiences, as well as being very perceptive of those around them. Worrit Warriors offers a space for them, to voice how they are feeling and learn new, healthy ways of dealing with those ‘big’ feelings before they grow into something more difficult to manage”.

Funded by the NHS Integrated Care Board, the project represents an increased investment by the NHS in early interventions for children facing mental health challenges; partly a response to the impact of the

pandemic on young people’s wellbeing and the need for emotional development support for all children, not just the ones in crisis.

Delivered by mental health professionals and supported by creatives from Mortal Fools, children taking part in ‘Worrit Warriors’ will explore how they can look after their own mental health, grow their resilience, and learn coping techniques for dealing with challenging emotions and processing difficult experiences. It will promote the idea “Brave isn’t how you feel… it’s what you do”.

Leigh Elliott, Chief Executive of Children North East, shared, “The increase of mental health crises among North East children is a significant area of concern. Every young person has the right to grow up happy and healthy and with the early intervention the ‘Worrit Warriors’ project provides a pathway of support that overstretched schools and healthcare services are often unable to provide.”

The ‘Worrit Warriors’ project combines the award-winning ‘Melva’ Digital Programme, a creative mental health intervention, created by Mortal Fools with therapeutic practitioner support. The ‘Melva’ programme includes a feature film, digital game and creative resource toolbox, which provide an accessible, fun and dynamically structured approach to talking about and understanding negative thoughts, feelings and experiences. The ‘Melva’ Programme has a particular focus on our ‘worrits’ (worries), and children learn that bravery isn’t how you feel, it’s what you do – that it’s ok to feel worried, anxious, nervous sometimes. What’s important is knowing how to recognise and manage those thoughts and feelings.

Kiz Crosbie, Artistic Director and CEO of Mortal Fools, comments, “The Melva programme provides children and the adults in their lives a way to understand and have deep, life-changing conversations about worries and anxiety. Many adults want to help children but simply don’t know where to start or worry that they won’t do a good job with it. Melva is an accessible, guided programme to help them and makes talking about difficult things fun.”