Programme using emoji bingo
and sport to tackle children's mental health problems wins top award
A programme combining emoji bingo and
sport to tackle children's mental health across Merseyside won a prestigious
award. Tackling the Blues (TtB), an early intervention programme for children in
Merseyside's most disadvantaged areas has been recognised for its 'Outstanding
Contribution to the Local Community' at the 'Times Higher Education Awards.'
The programme, launched by Edge Hill University in partnership with Everton in
the Community, the official charity, of Everton Football Club, uses sport and
education to help children aged 6 to 16 years old with, or at risk of mental
Emoji bingo, peer mentoring and physical activities are used to increase
self-esteem and reduce anxiety in children whilst helping them build positive
relationships with peers and external agencies.
The award judges said the programme:- "has been selected as a national case
exemplar" and has "in the view of educational and health professionals,
made a positive contribution in this challenging area."
They also said it was "remarkable" that more than 95% of participants
have continued with the programme over 15 months.
Andy Smith, Professor of Sport and Physical Activity at Edge Hill University,
said:- "We're delighted that over 2 years' research-led work, supported by
our students and longstanding partnership with Everton in the Community, has
been recognised for its impact on and contribution to our local communities,
especially children and young people with mental illness. Tackling the Blues is
a strong partnership which has been recognised by our peers as demonstrating
just what impact can be achieved if universities like Edge Hill, together with
other educational institutions and the sport and health sector, work
collaboratively to address issues which are of international concern."
Andy and his colleague Jonathan Jones collected their award at the ceremony in
London, beating strong competition from universities across England and Wales.
Andy said:- "We launched TtB in response to the very significant mental
health problems facing young people. 8 in 10 are not accessing mental health
services, others have to wait nine months to access support.
Inequality and deprivation are high in the North West and TtB operates in areas
ranked amongst the 85% most disadvantaged areas of the country. Our early
intervention programme tackles a variety of mental illness from depression and
anxiety to eating disorders and anger management. Without TtB many young people
would just slip through the net."
Volunteer students from Edge Hill's Department of Sport and Physical Activity
and Faculty of Education are trained in internationally accredited mental health
qualifications to deliver weekly sessions in schools, acting as mentors to the
Jon Jones, Edge Hill Project Lead for TtB, said:- "Operating across nine
secondary schools and two young carer groups, the sessions mix sport and
physical activity with educational workshops on topics such as stigma, bullying
and emotions where 'emoji bingo' is used to encourage children to talk
about their feelings. Delivering activities that children can relate to has
allowed us to start informal discussions around mental health whilst maintaining
their engagement and enjoyment."
Conor, 13, a pupil at Hillside High School in Bootle, said:- "TtB helps me
with my feelings and doing sport. If I felt down or upset or was angry in other
lessons I knew I could talk about it and I don't really get angry anymore."
Fellow pupil, Nathan, 13, said:- "TtB teaches you how mental health
affects people and how you can overcome it. Sometimes I felt upset but I spoke
to people in school and my parents. Now if I feel angry I walk away from it. I'm
also helping the Year 7's teaching them about mental health."
Chrissie Doran, Progress Leader for Years 7 and 8 at Hillside High School,
added:- "TtB is really helping. We've see our students learn new skills,
make new friends and they access support from different types of people making
them feel more confident and better about themselves. Students on TtB are more
likely to come to school, take part in school life and are generally more
engaged and communicative."
The volunteers are assisted by mentors and coaches from Everton's official
charity to maximise the impact of the brand of the Club which has helped recruit
and retain young people.
Michael Salla, Director of Health and Sport at Everton in the Community, said:-
"TtB is part of our wider work in the community promoting health and
wellbeing. One of the key areas is mental health and we've found football is a
highly effective engagement tool to reach people who wouldn't normally engage.
Once they're involved in a programme we can start a conversation with them, help
tackle the stigma and work alongside partners such as the NHS and other agencies
Charles Knight, a Senior Lecturer in Business and Management at Edge Hill
University was shortlisted in the Most Innovative Teacher of the Year category.