Following the launch of Burnley FC in the Community's Schools’ Mental Well-being Project, the charity's deputy chief executive has said it is "vital" that young people are encouraged to open up about any mental health issues.
Launched by Burnley FC players Aaron Lennon and Ben Mee at Shuttleworth College yesterday, the new Schools’ Mental Well-being Project has already put a trained Psychological Well-being Practitioner (PWP) in every Burnley secondary school and two in Pendle in order to provide crucial help for pupils with mental health issues.
Speaking at the launch event, BFCitC's Deputy Chief Executive, Paul France, said: "It's vitally important that we encourage young people to open up about mental health and show that bottling it up inside is not the right way to deal with things. Not being afraid to ask for help is crucially important; we want to make mental health an open subject.
"Having players like Ben Mee and Aaron Lennon involved will hopefully show the boys in particular that it's okay to talk about your feelings," he added. "We know the influence Burnley Football Club has on its community, so to get players connected and understanding what's going on allows them to use their influence as role models to influence the children."
With one in 10 children having a diagnosable mental health disorder but just 25% getting access to the crucial support they require, a lack of support for young people suffering with such issues can have catastrophic results, with suicide being the most common cause of death for both boys (17%) and girls (11%) aged between five and 19.
Having already seen almost 100 students go to their PWPs across the seven schools, the scheme - set to run for three years - is clearly having an impact, with 324 hours of support time provided to those who would have otherwise struggled to get help.
"You want all children to have a holistic education and our PWPs will be able to help with that," Paul explained. "It'll also allow the teachers to teach; they won't have to be dealing with mental health issues in the classroom so hopefully the pupils will get more teaching time.
"We want to shine a light on Burnley as a town," he added, saying that he is hoping for further funding for the project going forwards. "We want other areas to look at Burnley and think 'that's what we need to do.'"
BFCitC's Schools’ Mental Well-being Project is funded by a wide range of partners including the Premier League, the Professional Footballers’ Association, Burnley Borough Council, East Lancs CCG, and local schools. Whilst it is running, the University of Central Lancashire will also be conducting an academic evaluation of the scheme.