Bracknell Forest Young People’s Mental Well-Being Programme (ARCHIVED)

Our Children and Young People’s Mental Health Programme was first launched in Bracknell Forest in 2015/16 and since then we have delivered (and continue to deliver) a number of initiatives and services, to promote good emotional wellbeing, encourage resilience and get young people talking about mental health. We have delivered this via the life course approach:


  • From start: Yes
  • During process: Yes
  • In evaluation: Yes


  • Peer: Yes
  • Academic: No
  • PP Collaborative: Yes

Find out more


What We Did

Our Children and Young People’s Mental Health Programme was first launched in Bracknell Forest in 2015/16 and since then we have delivered (and continue to deliver) a number of initiatives and services, to promote good emotional wellbeing, encourage resilience and get young people talking about mental health. We have delivered this via the life course approach:

Years 3 – 6
– Superhero Story Writing Challenge
A challenge delivered in primary schools, which encouraged children to create a character (and additional friends) and write a story about a situation that goes wrong, focussing on how they felt and how they overcame the situation, with the support of friends. Because even superheroes have bad days!
– Creative Arts Challenge
Drawing upon age-appropriate curricula, produced by the PSHE Association, we asked pupils to produce artwork in their choice of medium, that interpreted contrasting feelings (e.g. happy and sad, excited and nervous etc).
– Workshops
Have been delivered by Xenzone Ltd to primary (and some secondary) schools across the area. These aimed to generate knowledge and awareness about mental health, what stigma is around mental health and to give more confidence to children to talk about it.

Years 7 – 13
– Kooth
Online counselling for young people aged 11 – 17. Visitors to the service can access accredited counsellors (drop-in sessions) to discuss anything that is causing them distress, contribute to moderated discussion forums and view mental health resources.
– Poetry Challenge
Delivered to young people in Year 7 and 8, the chosen theme for the competition was “friendship”. This allowed for exploration of a range of different experiences and feelings such as transition from primary to secondary school, fake friends, bullying, relationships & support.
– Workshops
These have been delivered both by the Public Health team and Soulscape. These have focussed on breaking mental health stigma, with the aim of getting young people talking. They have been delivered both in secondary schools and outside of schools (Youth Council, Young Carers etc).

– Mental Health: Let’s Talk the Talk guide for parents
A resource pack for parents of children aged 4-8 was put together with the aim to myth bust, give tips for talking to children about emotional health and wellbeing, how to support a child and FAQs that children and/or parents may have.

– The World’s Largest Mental Health Lesson
To mark World Mental Health Day 2017, we are heavily supporting an inspirational local young people to organise a lesson that will see over 1500 children and young people attend the Madejski Stadium on 10th October. The lesson will be delivered by a number of speakers focussing on common mental health problems and coping strategies for emotional distress. The event will be live streamed both in the UK and to 5 classrooms across the world, with the aim of breaking the current Guinness World Record.

Wider Active Support

Highly Commended in National Positive Practice in MH Awards 2016

A programme of this size and variety has required us to work with a number of partners. We have ensured that partners are informed of new programme elements at an early stage, including them at every opportunity and drawing upon their knowledge to provide high quality outcomes. Partners include:
– School staff
– Bracknell Forest Council Children, Young People and Learning Department (including Heads of Service and Educational Psychologists)
– Local support services (CCGs, CAMHS, Xenzone (provider of Kooth online counselling), Family Information Services etc.)
– Partners in neighbouring Local Authorities (Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and Slough)
– Voluntary sector (e.g. Soulscape, who ran workshops in secondary schools)
– Youth Council
– Young Carers
– Reading Football Club (World Mental Health Day event)

Collaboration with children and young people has been at the heart of our programme. An example of this is our in-school challenges. Through these we have ensured that children and young people are able to express their own views about emotional wellbeing, exploring the topic in a creative way and developing their own messages for other children and young people. In all of the challenges we have picked a select number of entries and worked closely with the children and young people to develop resources. These have included animations that have been voiced and designed by the children and young people themselves (An example of this is ‘Elastic Man – Even Superheroes Have Bad Days’, created by a boy in year 4 –
Our workshops have also focused heavily on enabling children and young people to express their views on a range of mental health topics, drawing upon existing materials such as Time to Change videos and using a range of delivery methods. For example, the Soulscape ‘Inside Out’ project, used ‘talking stations’ to enable pupils in secondary schools to discuss mental health. These stations were interactive and included the use of music as a form of expression. Views of children and young people have been collected from all workshops, including ‘messages of support’ from one young person to another. An example of this can be found using this link:

Looking Back/Challenges Faced

We have experienced and overcome two main challenges across this programme; firstly within the in-school initiatives and secondly in our commissioning of the Kooth online counselling service.

In-school initiatives
The challenge: to make the programme (both workshops and challenges) attractive to schools and easy for them to do. Our first question was ‘how are we actually going to get this programme into our schools?’

Mitigating actions:
We based our approach upon the Behaviour Change ‘EAST’ model (easy, attractive, simple and timely):
– We notified teachers/headteachers of programme elements well in advance, knowing the school year is planned in advance
– We made sure the programme links with schools’ curriculum, utilising PSHE Association resources to ensure that the content is appropriate for each age range
– Providing schools with the support packs needed to deliver elements
– Going to talk to teachers/headteachers to see how it would fit in with what they’re already offering
– Ensuring that each element is different to the last and making the programme as creative and collaborative as possible to engage children and young people.

The challenge: to persuade teachers and other mental health professionals that an online preventative service, where young people can talk to a counsellor quickly and anonymously, is safe to do. Furthermore, by enabling such easy access to a platform where children and young people can talk about their feelings, how would staff deal with any disclosures at an early stage?

– At the start of service delivery, we ensured that professional partners were provided with evidence of how Kooth was working previously
– Kooth have engaged actively and regularly with schools to build relationships and trust
– We have kept professional partners informed about service delivery using robust evaluation (including feedback from users), which has given staff the confidence that they can signpost to a service and they will get support from a professional.
– We have recognised that specific populations are more at risk of developing mental health problems. Kooth have therefore provided additional sessions and support to specific groups (e.g. Looked After Children and Young Offenders)


Our work supporting the mental well-being of young people is embedded into the overall strategy of Bracknell Forest Council and is monitored via specific key performance indicators. Other stakeholders, including the CCG, schools and the Health & Well-Being Board have also set it as a key priority. Therefore, long term commitment to the investment of both time and resources is assured. The operational details, resources and plans related to the programme are shared available to be utilised by new staff or other teams.


Evaluation (Peer or Academic)

The evaluation has been both quantitative and qualitative for this programme. Main points include:
– Creative Arts Challenge – feedback from school staff included “as an art teacher and a therapeutic counsellor, I have personally witnessed the benefits of self- reflective art on mental health.”
– Xenzone anti-stigma lessons – evaluation forms pre and post sessions were given out to secondary school/college children and young people. 184 were fully completed and show that overall the sessions demonstrated increased levels of knowledge and awareness of mental health and stigma, increased levels of confidence in talking about mental health and increased awareness of ways in which young people can support their own mental health and wellbeing.
– Anti-stigma workshops – (using Easthampstead School as an example) the structure of the session was rated an average of 5 out 6, the overall assessment of the session rated an average of 4.9 out of 6 and the knowledge around mental health increased from 3.7 (out of 6) before the session to 5 after the session.
– Kooth – Overall feedback on the Kooth service shows that 90% of young people could recommend Kooth to a friend. Feedback from users includes ‘“I feel a lot better after talking with you because it released a lot of those tensions in my head as well as I have been able to speak with my friends and decompress. Very happy now”.

All outcomes and evaluation can be seen in more detail at


– 60+ entries were received from the Superhero Story Writing Challenge. 4 stories were animated in collaboration with the winners.
– 70 entries were received from the Poetry Challenge. 2 poems have been voiced by the winners and will be developed into online resources.
– 150 entries were received from the Creative Arts Challenge. 2 highly commended and 2 winners were chosen from each school and will make up part of the online resource pack, alongside the poetry.

– Soulscape delivered ‘Inside Out’ workshops to over 700 pupils in year 9 to 12.
– Public Health delivered anti-stigma workshops to 150 young people.
– Xenzone workshops were delivered in 7 primary schools, 3 secondary schools, 1 college and 1 pupil referral unit, reaching over 850 pupils.

Services (Kooth)
– Since the start of the service, in April 2015, Kooth has been accessed by 1,755 young people in Bracknell Forest. A number have returned multiple times.

– 1500 children and young people have signed up to attend The World’s Largest Mental Health Lesson. A further 5 schools from across the world will be video calling in to take part in the lesson. It will also be streamed on Facebook Live for any UK schools who are unable to physically attend.

Social media
– Nearly 120,000 reach on Facebook (of resources/messages developed by young people and campaigns)
– Nearly 37,000 reach on Twitter
– Nearly 33,000 Video views on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube

– National recognition of our work in schools on BBC South:

All outcomes and evaluation can be seen in more detail at


All work that is undertaken as part of this programme is shared with a range of partners, including health and social care colleagues (including CCGs). Resources created from the challenges in schools are collated and sent back to all schools to use as a resource within lessons that focus on emotional wellbeing. The parents’ guides were also shared with a range of professional partners, (CAMHS, Children’s Centres, Family Information Services etc) and throughout all schools. All videos, animations etc are also shared across all of our social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) to reach a large number of local residents.



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