Tennis ace works with Altrincham pupils to raise awareness of mental health

Professional tennis ace and Youth Sport Trust athlete mentor, Anna Fitzpatrick, visited students from Altrincham Grammar School for Girls recently to raise awareness of the importance of mental health as part of the Greater Manchester Mentally Healthy Schools Project.

Her visit was part of a pilot project, commissioned by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, to provide specialist mental health support for both pupils and teachers in primary and secondary schools across Greater Manchester.

The six-times Wimbledon competitor has been working with pupils to provide advice to help improve their confidence and reach their full potential.  Drawing on her own experiences, Anna has also been offering the students coaching in key life skills such as growing self-esteem, learning creative thinking skills and how to develop coping strategies for challenges.

The two-phase scheme involving 64 schools to date is a collaboration between Alliance for Learning Teaching School, Place2Be, children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust, Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership and 42nd Street.

Recent research has shown that physical activity boosts mental wellbeing, reduces anxiety and improves mood. Through workshops with Youth Sport Trust athlete mentors and Place2Be, young people are being supported to build their confidence and reach their full potential.

Alliance For Learning, the teaching school linked to Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, has trained the school leadership teams in mental health first aid and the project has offered schools guidance on how to work more effectively with children and young people experiencing mental health problems.  The scheme has also provided a simpler, easier way to refer into Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

Anna Fitzpatrick, Youth Sport Trust athlete mentor says: “The Greater Manchester Mentally Healthy Schools Pilot is without a doubt one of the most powerful athlete mentor programmes I’ve worked on.  We’ve had some great discussions throughout the workshop sessions and I’m pleased to see how many of the pupils have been open to discussing their own sense of wellbeing and how best they can learn to manage it.”

Stephanie Gill Principal at Altrincham Grammar School for Girls says: “Our students have taken a great deal from this project so far. As a school, we feel we do a lot to support wellbeing already, but the extra training and the student workshops have enhanced our provision. We are thrilled our own teaching school is involved in the leadership of the project so that students beyond our own school can benefit. It is fantastic to see the links between mental health, sport and physicality activity being made explicit too.”

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