A project aimed at preventing mental health problems in Newham’s young people has been given a £10million boost.

The HeadStart initiative aims to cut the number who suffer from conditions such as depression, anxiety, self harm or eating disorders by providing a support system through their school, teachers, parents and peers.

It was set up 18 months ago using a £840,000 Big Lottery Fund (BLF) grant and has been piloted in 16 schools and youth zones across the borough.

Newham Council has now been chosen by the fund as one of six mental wellbeing projects to receive a share of £54million, which will fund the project for five years.

BLF England grant-making director Lyn Cole praised the project for recognising pupils’ emotional welfare is “fundamental” to their overall achievement.

The money will be used over five years to roll HeadStart out across 16 of the borough’s secondary schools, 40 primary schools, youth zones and other community venues.

Cabinet member for children and young people Councillor Rev Quintin Peppiatt called it a “ringing endorsement” of the initiative which had brought about “positive changes” in young people.

He added: “Mental illness can impact on a young person’s attainment at school and their chances of finding work. The whole idea behind HeadStart is to get in at an early stage and help stop the concerns and challenges young people have from developing into bigger issues that impact the rest of their lives.”

Last year a survey of 869 Newham schoolchildren found 5% showed signs of having a significant emotional disorder such as depression and 6% signs of a behaviour disorder including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

HeadStart works to support young people aged 10-16 years by providing online advice and information, training for teachers on changes in behaviour policies, psychologist training for young people so they can act as mentors and workshops and courses for parents to help them build their children’s mental resilience.

It also encourages vulnerable young people to volunteer or join a sports or creative course. Bosses said 200 students have already taken part in volunteering projects with the vast majority showing marked improvements in their mental resilience with anecdotal evidence it has also helped improve their school work and behaviour.

The project is backed by schools, local voluntary groups, child and adolescent mental health services providers, the NHS Newham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and young mayor of Newham Alex Jarrett who said the funding was “fantastic news”.

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