A programme of emotional and mental health workshops is set to be rolled out in schools across the North East thanks to a partnership between If U Care Share and Karbon Homes.

Funded through Karbon Homes’ Community Investment Fund and delivered by the team at If U Care Share, the workshops were first piloted in secondary schools across County Durham, and are designed to tackle the stigma of opening up about mental health among young people.

Matthew Smith, Chief Operating Officer at If U Care Share, said: “Young People are at the centre of all the work we do as an organisation and we’re extremely grateful for the ongoing support from Karbon that’s given us this amazing opportunity to work with young people in communities across the North East.

“We’ve constructed workshops which encourage young people to talk about the way they are feeling and emphasises that it is OK not to feel OK and that there is always a way. It delivers a poignant yet positive message and it’s been really encouraging to see the engagement of all schools in the programme who have made mental health support for their pupils a priority.”

The workshops specifically target pupils aged 11 to 16, offering fun and interactive, face-face sessions with a trained mental health professional, highlighting the importance of looking after their own mental well-being and being aware of the signs of poor mental well-being in their peers.

After each session pupils are provided with an information pack, full of advice and signposting to easily accessible mental health support services.

Paul Hadden, Community Connector for Karbon Homes, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has put increased pressure on young people’s mental wellbeing.

“This, tied in with the fact that the North East has the highest suicide rate among young men in the country, got us seriously thinking about what we could do to support the young people living in our homes and communities.

“It’s been fantastic to partner with If U Care Share to run this project, which takes mental health education directly to those who need it and, thanks to the success of the pilot in County Durham, we’re proud to be continuing our work with them and reaching even more young people with this important message.”

The initial pilot was carried out in six schools across County Durham and saw 913 children attend the sessions. Following the workshops, 97% of the pupils indicated that they felt more equipped on how to seek support and support a friend in need.

The roll-out will take the workshops to a further 11 schools, spanning Northumberland down to Teesside.

One school in which the scheme was piloted was Park View School in Chester-le-Street. Headteacher Andrew Finlay said: “Positive mental health in students at the school is something that we are keen to promote at Park View and we’ve been really impressed by the work carried out by If U Care Share and supported by Karbon Homes.

“Promoting positive mental health has become an increasing priority for us as a school and I am delighted that there have already been some tangible success stories throughout the whole school to build upon over the next few years.”

Chester-le-Street based If U Care Share, has been providing vital support and services throughout the region for more than a decade. The charity works to prevent suicide, support those who have lost loved ones and provide training to improve emotional and mental health.

The charity can be contacted either by phone, 0191 387 5661, or through a free, confidential and 24/7 text service. Text IUCS to 85258