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Students draw on their creativity to promote good mental health

A project to promote good mental wellbeing among young people has concluded with the announcement of the winners of a school art competition ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from 14 to 20 May.

Be Yourself was organised by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) to raise awareness of mental health among young people and to help brighten the lives of children using its services.

Nationally, there has been a sharp rise in reported levels of anxiety and stress in school-aged children and there are an estimated three children in every classroom who has an active mental health condition. One in four school-aged children is experiencing emotional distress at any time, rates of self-harm are increasing and both locally and nationally referrals to services for eating disorders are seeing a year-on-year increase.

These figures can be due to a range of issues facing young people, from exam pressures to cyber-bullying, issues with self-esteem and body image, or worries about finding a job when they finish their education.

Nicki Bramford, social care and education lead in the Trust’s Children, Families and Young People’s (CFYP) services, said: “NSFT is committed to doing everything it can to support young people and to help safeguard their mental wellbeing so that they can enjoy a better quality of life. 

“We are working with several schools across Norfolk and Suffolk on a range of innovative projects to help us achieve this. Encouraging students to talk openly about mental health is vital and will make sure they feel comfortable if they do ever need extra support.”

Emma Bosier, a psychiatry trainee in the CFYP team, invited local students to create works of art that would encourage a positive mental outlook and brighten the reception area at Mary Chapman House, which is where the Under-14s CFYP team is based in Norwich.

Emma, who judged the artwork along with colleague and art psychotherapist Sarah Harley, said: “The competition had two aims. Firstly, we wanted to raise awareness of mental health among young people, and involving local students in an art competition on the theme ‘Be Yourself’ seemed a good way to get them thinking about what mental health means to them.

“Also, the waiting area at Mary Chapman House is the first place young people accessing our services see when they come into the building. It’s already got a child-friendly look, but we wanted to add artwork created by young people to help teenagers feel even more comfortable in the surroundings.”

The three winners, from City of Norwich School (CNS), were chosen from 20 finalists, whose pictures have all gone on display at Mary Chapman House, while the winners – Joseph in Year 9, Thia in Year 8 and Aiden in Year 7 – were also presented with certificates. 

Sarah said: “We were really impressed by the effort the children put into responding to the theme thoughtfully and the creative and varied artworks submitted.

“It was really hard to choose winners and in the end we looked for those which combined the issues of young people’s wellbeing and mental health needs with strong imaginative design.”

Jo Philpott, headteacher at CNS, said: “I am delighted that our students' work is being celebrated and fully support the aims of Mental Health Awareness Week in drawing attention to an issue that affects many young people. 

“We encourage our students to feel comfortable about opening up and believe very strongly that this culture of openness helps with their educational success, as well as offering young people a much greater chance of leading a fulfilled life as a successful adult.”

An online gallery of the artwork can be viewed here:​

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