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Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Webwatch: Duchess launches pilot mental health website supporting primary children

Written by Tony Jones

The Duchess of Cambridge has said she is committed to helping the "youngest and most vulnerable" in society as she launched a mental health website for teachers supporting pupils.

Kate made her declaration when she visited a London infant school to give the green light to the online project being piloted in 50 schools and coordinated and financed by the duchess' Royal Foundation.

The free website for schools, called Mentally Healthy Schools, is expected to be rolled out nationwide in the spring after being monitored and reviewed.

In a speech to launch the portal, Kate told education professionals and guests from the mental health sector: "I see time and time again that there is so much to be gained from talking of mental health and taking the mental health of our children as seriously as we do their physical health.

"When we intervene early in life, we help avoid problems that are much more challenging to address in adulthood.

"My own commitment is to the youngest and most vulnerable in their early years - babies, toddlers and schoolchildren - and to support all those who care for them."

The website will draw together reliable and practical resources to improve awareness, knowledge and confidence in promoting and supporting pupils' mental health.

The content will be provided in four main areas - teaching resources, risks and protective factors, mental health needs, and a whole school approach for school leaders.

Kate, who was speaking at Roe Green Junior School in Kingsbury, north-west London and wore a coat and dress by Sportmax, added: "Teachers want to help, but don't have the time to go hunting for the best information and advice out there. You need resources you can trust. And you need to have easy access to them at all times. That is what this pilot is all about.

"Led by the Royal Foundation, with close collaboration from our Heads Together partners, this new online resource will transform schools' access to high-quality information, and guide teachers and school leaders towards the best support out there."

When Kate first arrived, she joined a staff room meeting where teachers and other guests were discussing the issue of mental health in schools, and the duchess asked the question: "Do you think teachers are wanting to improve the mental health of their pupils but they're not able to get the right resources?"

Later, she joined a group of children making rainbow spectacles that gave them the power to talk positively about themselves - one of the activities highlighted on the new mental health website.

She chatted to the youngsters as they coloured in the paper glasses and she quizzed them about their answers to a questionnaire, which asked pupils to define a positive person or resilience.

Roe Green Junior School is one of 50 trialling the free online portal, which aims to build on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry's Heads Together campaign, which last year encouraged people to speak about their mental health problems or provide a sympathetic ear for someone with issues.

The duchess brought together Heads Together charity partners, teaching organisations and mental health experts to create the online project.

Peter Fonagy, chief executive of the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families - a heads together partner which worked on the project, said about Kate: "She's quite fond of children, and she's genuinely interested in how to make children's lives better, particularly young children and what parents and teachers can do to positively influence a life.

"Because I think that's what she can see in terms of her kids, dropping them off to school, just how important those teachers are for her children."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Jonathan Brady / PA Wire.