New projects and initiatives will be launched to help young people in Wolverhampton deal with mental health difficulties and concerns thanks to £500,000 from the Big Lottery Fund's HeadStart programme.

Wolverhampton City Council has been granted "development funding" to establish a series of pilot projects involving pupils aged between 10 and 14 during the next school year.

These pilots will be used to shape long term plans which could then benefit from a multi-million pound share of funding from the £75 million HeadStart programme.

The council has estimated that there are thousands of 10 to 14 year olds and their families in Wolverhampton who are at risk of poor mental health because of issues including deprivation, unemployment or poverty, bullying, low self-esteem and substance misuse.

A previous YouGov survey for the Big Lottery Fund revealed that 45% of children aged 10 to 14 nationally have reported being unable to sleep because of stress or worry, with 59 percent saying they feel worried or sad at least once a week. Another survey, The Centre for Economic Performance's Mental Health Policy Group, LSE: How Mental Health Illness Loses Out in the NHS (2012), found that only around 25% of young people needing treatment for mental health problems actually receive it - and usually only once they reach 18.

The HeadStart programme aims to develop ways of helping and supporting young people to deal with mental health issues before they become deep rooted problems.

Focussing primarily on schools, families and communities, the council and its partners will develop a range of support services including peer mentoring, mental health 'first aid' training, online information portals and community and family support.

They will also set up special resilience lessons to help pupils aged 10 to 14 feel they have support in the classroom as well as at home and to tackle the stigma that often surrounds mental health issues.

Lyn Cole, Deputy England Director of the Big Lottery Fund, said: "We know that around three young people in every classroom suffer from a clinically diagnosable mental health disorder and this is a desperately sad situation.

"HeadStart is all about catching our young people before they fall into a trap of mental and emotional turmoil that may affect them all though their lives.

"This development funding means that children in the West Midlands will play an important role in helping other young people get emotional support at a key stage in their lives."

Wolverhampton was one of a select group of areas invited to bid for support from the HeadStart programme to develop new services. The council was initially awarded £10,000 to develop a detailed bid which led to the allocation of £500,000 to launch new services locally, announced this week.

If these services can be shown to be having a positive impact on young people, Wolverhampton may then receive up to £10 million over the next few years to develop services further.

Councillor Sandra Samuels, Wolverhampton City Council's Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: "This is a fantastic opportunity to make a real and lasting difference to the lives of young people in Wolverhampton.

"Too few young people needing treatment for mental health problems actually receive it. We want to change that and ensure that the help and support they need is available - and that young people feel able to ask for it."

Councillor Val Gibson, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said: "We will be teaching our young people a range of different skills to develop coping strategies to help them when they face challenges, and these strategies will hopefully stay with them for the rest of their lives.

"I'd like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to get us to this stage, taking part in workshops, completing surveys and sharing their thoughts and opinions on what sort of help young people need. Now we need to develop innovative services and demonstrate the benefits that they bring to our city's young people."

  • released: Friday 11 July, 2014