On World Mental Health Day, Crystal Palace and the Premier League are joining organisations across the world to raise awareness of global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.
The club are proud of the work the Palace for Life Foundation do and here, they share an update on their fantastic Team Mates programme.
Talking about mental health can be difficult. Palace for Life Foundation’s Team Mates programme is aiming to change that by encouraging children at primary schools to talk more openly about their feelings.
The early mental health intervention focuses on social skills and positive psychology and is set to grow thanks to a boost in funding from the upcoming Marathon March, powered by Utilita.
Healthy Lifestyles Officer Chase Hill, who leads Team Mates, explains: “The programme works in a group setting and runs throughout the school year. The children we work with might have had adverse childhood experiences, so witnesses of domestic violence, or have a family member in prison.
"It might be children with low confidence or low self-esteem. They might be suffering with anxiety issues, or have ADHD; basically any risk factors that suggest they could develop poor mental health later in life.”
With limited resource and funding, schools can find it difficult to support children who fall short of the criteria for formal services and Hill thinks there is a real opportunity to further develop programmes like Team Mates.
“Currently," he says, "all the funding and resources are focused at the top end of the pyramid and the ‘crisis’, but not enough on the early intervention.
"I truly believe that if these challenges can be addressed in early life, at primary school, children are more likely to go on to live a mentally healthy life.
“When I go into schools and speak to headteachers, they have a lot of children on their radar who either aren’t receiving support, or fall short of the threshold for formal support.
"So there’s a massive gap in the market for this kind of service and it’s something the schools we’re working with have really taken to.”
Team Mates currently runs in 13 primary schools across south London and with additional funding from this year’s Marathon March set to boost the programme, the plan is to move into secondary schools as well.
“We’re looking to expand into secondary schools because we know how difficult that transition from can be for children, moving into a new environment, a larger setting, with new processes and new rules.
"With additional funding we’ll also be able to develop new resources and roll out mental health awareness training to teachers to encourage a whole school approach to mental health.
“Getting support through the Marathon March would be massive. We’re very lucky to be funded by the Premier League and the PFA but that money only goes so far. We’re looking to bring in two new members of staff to work on this programme, and that will be so important in helping us grow and support more children.”
For Hill, the key is educating everyone about mental health and starting more conversations.
“For me, mental health is a spectrum that shows how our emotional wellbeing is at a particular time. Throughout anyone’s life their mental health will peak and trough and we all move around on that spectrum.
“We have our physical health and we have our mental health and wellbeing, so we can have poor mental health, but we can also have very positive mental health.”
One of the ways the programme rewards and celebrates the successes of the children is through incentives and using the association with Crystal Palace F.C.
“Taking the Crystal Palace brand into schools and wearing the badge really adds weight to the programme. We’ve had a number of children come and visit Selhurst Park."
"Lots of them live close to the ground and can even see it from their houses but don’t always have the means to watch a game. So to be able to bring them here and show them behind the scenes - where their heroes like Wilfried Zaha have stood - is brilliant for them.”
This article originally appeared on Palace for Life's website. To read more about their fantastic work, click here now.
And to support young south Londoners through the Foundation's Team Mates programme, please donate to this year's Marathon March by clicking here.