A better 'deal' for schools with Samaritans

Giving 'teens' the emotional strength they need- Sugababes back charity's launch

Samaritans launches its DEAL (Developing Emotional Awareness and Learning) programme for schools today, to improve the emotional health of young people across the UK and Ireland.

It's targeted at 'teens' to equip them with the emotional skills they need to cope with the 'knocks' that today's society throws their way.

DEAL goes to every secondary school, to be used as part of a 'whole school' approach to emotional health and wellbeing.  It builds on extensive work Samaritans has done before with schools and will actively promote the emotional wellbeing of young people, raise awareness of emotional health, promote positive ways of coping and challenge the stigma around asking for help.

Sugababes showed their support for DEAL by taking part in a Samaritans photoshoot to back the launch. Talking about emotional health in schools, Sugababes newest recruit Amelle Berrabah said: "Teachers should keep an eye out for any change in a kid's behaviour and make themselves available for their students to talk to. They should also encourage kids to write things down if they find it too hard to talk about their problems out loud. "

Keisha Buchanan said: "Always accentuate the good things about yourself and don't hide behind your insecurities. Be happy in yourself. If you need to talk to somebody don't be scared. Speak out, don't bottle things up."

Heidi Range said: "You should be judged on the way you are as a person not for how you look. People who judge you otherwise are just insecure themselves."

"Kids shouldn't feel it's stupid to ask for help and worry that they will be bullied if anybody finds out they have. Whoever they speak to should be approachable and able to listen confidentially to anything that's bothering them, without fear of being judged."

Samaritans supporter Jeremy Paxman said: "Young people often go through tough times at school. Samaritans DEAL programme equips students with the emotional skills to cope with life's challenges and reduces the stigma of asking for help."

Chief executive with Samaritans, David King said: " Samaritans is here to support people and ultimately to help them become more emotionally healthy.  Young people are vulnerable and DEAL makes them better equipped to deal with the pressures they face in life and feel so much more confident about how, and where, to get support when they need it."

Fiona Feehan, National Coordinator of the National Healthy Schools Programme (NHSS) for England said:" The NHSS has emotional health and well-being as one of its core four themes.  We place great importance on a healthy school being one that also caters for the emotional health and well-being of its pupils and staff.  This includes information and awareness-raising alongside clear referral pathways and systems of support."

Danny McNamara, lead singer of Embrace, supports Samaritans' launch of DEAL for schools and features in DEAL's DVD talking about emotional problems he had when he was younger.

Danny tells how he turned to Samaritans for support and adds: "Everyone puts on a brave face when they have problems. Young people find it harder than anyone to ask for help – they're usually the last ones to ask for help when they need it."

The UK alone has 7.21 million children of school age and DEAL is being announced at a time when:-

  • one in five children has psychological problems [2]
  • one in 10 children has a clinically diagnosable mental disorder [3]
  • over 60% of teenage boys don't know what to do when someone becomes emotional towards them [4]
  • over 40% of girls also don't know how to react to someone who's upset4
  • over half of teenagers don't know how to express their feelings – they can only stick to the facts when they talk about their problems [4]
  • 10% of teenagers (15-16 year olds) have self-harmed [5]
  • a record 60 children a day are suspended or sent home from London schools for violent behaviour [6]
  • 75% of children with 'conduct disorder' problems when aged 10 still have them when aged 15 years old [7]
  • 50% of children with emotional problems when aged 10 still have them when aged 15 years old [7]
  • emotional health promotion should not rely on information alone but should involve the development of student skills and behaviours that are reinforced in the wider community [9]
  • emotional and social competence has been shown to be more influential than cognitive abilities for personal, career and scholastic success.  Working in this area can improve educational and life chances [10]

Resources

The DEAL resource pack includes:

  • an introduction to emotional health for schools
  • activities for staff
  • a DVD with separate sections for staff and pupils
  • cross curricular lesson plans
  • a series of fact sheets

Development Coordinator with Samaritans, Tonja Schmidt, who leads on DEAL, said: "All schools have a responsibility to promote the emotional health of their students yet 63%8 of teachers say they do not feel confident delivering this subject in the classroom.  DEAL has been shown to improve teacher confidence, which helps them to create a more emotionally healthy school environment."

Research by Professor Keith Hawton, Director of the University of Oxford Centre for Suicide Research, for Samaritans, showed the most common reason for young people self-harming was relieving a 'terrible state of mind'.

The study also found that over 40%5 of young people looked for a friend's help before harming themselves.  Following these findings, Samaritans set about developing the DEAL pack as a way of encouraging young people to develop more constructive coping strategies and ensuring their peers are better equipped to support them through difficult times.

This is an excellent example of a robust academic study leading directly to a resource valuable to people in everyday life.

DEAL was evaluated and helps teachers to feel more comfortable and better able to educate young people about this important part of life, which will lead to an emotionally healthier environment within schools.  School teachers are considered the second most important influence in the lives of young people, second to their parents.11

Emotional health-related skills are important to all parts of life. DEAL lessons can be taught as part of a range of subjects, including English Literature, Citizenship, Drama, and Geography.  The resources help students understand 'emotional health' as it relates to them, their friends, family and peers.  The lessons also help students identify coping strategies for stressful or difficult situations they may face, and to differentiate between positive and negative coping strategies.

Coping Skills

A key part of coping skills learning is to understand why it's difficult to use positive coping strategies, such as the stigma which can prevent people from being open about their problems with their friends and family, or the weakness often felt by young people when their friends come to them with difficulties.  By exploring the barriers to asking for help, students learn to be more supportive of each other, as well as how to handle difficult situations in the best way themselves. 

Over a thousand students from 10 schools have taken part in the testing of the DEAL

programme, which cover subjects across emotional health, listening skills, stress, bullying, self-harm, depression and suicide.

Volunteers at the 202 Samaritans branches around the UK and Ireland will also become familiar with DEAL and they will continue to take an active role in their local schools.  Volunteers can also deliver DEAL with teachers and Samaritans branches will continue to have an ongoing role with their local schools as Samaritans' work in schools with the DEAL programme will develop and grow.  The programme is sustainable and will help improve the emotional health of children well into the future.

DEAL includes exercises for promoting emotional health in other curriculum areas, such as Citizenship, English and PE (Physical Education).  DEAL's 'whole school' approach, involving all members of the school community, creates an emotionally healthy culture – this places DEAL firmly in line with existing initiatives such as Every Child Matters Outcomes Framework, National Healthy Schools Scheme and Standard 1 of the National Service for Mental Health.

Royal and Sun Alliance donated £325,000 over three years to pay for the development of DEAL. The company also provided expertise and use of its facilities.  SHIFT, the part of NIMHE (the National Institute for Mental Health in England), with specific responsibility for reducing stigma around mental health issues, also provided funding of £30,000 towards the development of the DEAL DVD resources.  Feedback from both school staff and students on DEAL has been positive and students taking part in the programme showed an improvement in their understanding and attitude towards emotional health.

Miss Fran Long, Head of Personal Learning and support at Langley Park Girls School, said: "This is an important issue which needs to be constantly revisited.  Anything that helps with that is tremendously useful.  We are not specialists and these are real issues.  Having lots of easy materials to use - it's great."

A 16 year old student at the school said: "This helped me quite a bit to be more confident, to know that when I feel down I will always feel good again."

The development of the DEAL project was supported by a group consisting of 65 people from over 35 different organisations, including Samaritans' volunteers and professionals from education, health and other voluntary sector organisations.  Some of the teaching resources were also developed in partnership with Samaritans' volunteers and other organisations such as Childline and Connexions.

Details of DEAL can be found on Samaritans website at www.samaritans.org/deal  where you can also hear the Development Coordinator with Samaritans Tonja Schmidt explaining the programme – and Danny McNamara talking about problems he faced in younger life and turning to Samaritans for support.

-ends-

1. Pupil absence in schools 2001/2. Department for Education and Skills (2002)

2. I want to be your friend but I don't know how. The Mental Health Foundation (2001)

3.The Mental Health of Children and Young Adolescents ONS (2000)

4. Samaritans (2004)

5. Youth and Self Harm: Perspectives (2003) Samaritans

6. Working with Anger Nick Luxmoore published by Jessica Kingsley (2006)

7. The cost of anti-social behaviour in children Knapp M, Scott S & Davies, J (1999)

8.  Byrne, M., Barry, M., Sheridan, A. (2004). Implementation of a school-based mental health     promotion programme in Ireland. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion.Vol 6, (Issue 2 May 2004) The Clifford Beers Foundation.

9. Harden, A., Rees, R., Shepherd, J. Brunton, G., Oliver, S. & Oakley, A. Young people and mental health: A systematic review of research on barriers and facilitators. London: EPPI Centre. (2001)

10.Goleman, D. (1996) cited in Weare, K. and Gray, G. What works in developing children's emotional and social competence and wellbeing? Department for Education and Skills. (2003)

11.Every Child Matters Outcomes Framework. (2004)

Notes to editors

It is the aim of Samaritans to make emotional health a mainstream issue.  Samaritans' vision is for a society where fewer people die by suicide because people are able to share feelings of emotional distress openly without fear of being judged.  Samaritans believes that offering people the opportunity to be listened to in confidence, and accepted without prejudice, can alleviate despair and suicidal feelings.

Samaritans is a registered charity, founded in 1953, which offers 24-hour confidential emotional support to anyone in emotional distress.  The service is offered by 17,000 trained volunteers and is entirely dependent on voluntary support.  Across the UK, you can call Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 (1850 60 90 90 in the Republic of Ireland) for the price of a local call.  You can also write to Samaritans at Chris, PO Box 9090, Stirling, FK8 2SA, send an e-mail to jo@samaritans.org or if you are deaf or hard of hearing use the single national minicom number 08457 90 91 92

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