Thirty children from Hove Park School were welcomed to The 1st Central County Ground last week for a two-day Mental Health Champions training course at the onsite Sussex Cricket Foundation (SCF) Learning Centre.
The group of 12-18 year olds were trained in mental health awareness and peer support practices as part of an innovative approach to supporting the mental health needs of the Hove Park School community.
The programme aims to encourage a supportive and open culture towards mental health within the school by raising awareness and increasing access to services via Mental Health Champions.
The Sussex Cricket Foundation offered its support over the two days by running its ‘Healthy Mind, Health Body’ workshops. These explore the connection between sport, physical health and mental health.
Two members of Sussex Cricket’s coaching staff, Paul Khoury and Mike Yardy also contributed to the course.
Paul is Sussex’s Head of Medicine & Science and is responsible for the physical and mental wellbeing of the club’s players. He spoke to the group about how sports professionals maintain positive mental health and the benefits of daily physical activity.
Mike, a former England and Sussex cricketer and Sussex’s current batting coach, answered questions from the group about his own experience of mental health and offered advice on how the Hove Park Mental Health Champions could best support their classmates.
During his time with the group, Mike emphasised the importance of a scheme like Mental Health Champions: “It’s important that everyone feels they have support when they are struggling with their mental wellbeing, because ultimately this could make a big difference.”
The programme culminated in an awards ceremony where the pupils received their official ‘Hove Park School Mental Health Champions’ status.
Discussing the course which he helped run with Lauren Pinney, Hove Park School’s Social, Emotional and Mental Health Lead, Karl O’Brien, a Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service Primary Mental Health Worker with Brighton & Hove Integrated Services said: “The rationale for the event is a clear one.
“Young people are more likely to talk first and foremost to their peers about mental health or things that concern them, so it makes sense to educate at the coal face, give young people clear guidance, facts and information about mental health to reduce stigma and improve their likelihood to engage or seek support early in the life cycle of their difficulty.
“Mental health awareness has improved greatly over time and Hove Park has an amazingly inclusive attitude and community presence, so let’s build on our successes and address those much-needed attitude norms about mental health for the future.”
Vanessa Potter, Head of Education and Health, Sussex Cricket Foundation added: “As a community stakeholder, we fully support local initiatives to improve the health and well-being of Sussex communities and were pleased to welcome the school to The 1st Central County Ground for the training programme.
“Training pupils in peer support will have a lasting impact for years to come and we were delighted to partner on this innovative and proactive approach. We believe that raising awareness of mental health issues through high-profile advocates will reduce stigma and will increase the likelihood of those in need accessing help.
“Educating communities about the benefits of physical activity is also key element of mental health intervention. We were delighted to work with Hove Park School on the project and to integrate these elements into their Mental Health Champions programme.”