The Big Umbrella programme was developed in collaboration with local young people to promote positive mental health and wellbeing and challenge stigma. Coventry and Warwickshire Mind is currently the only organisation delivering the programme and is now in Year 4 of delivery. Through its work within primary and secondary schools in Warwickshire, Big Umbrella's mission is reach children and young people, raise awareness of mental health issues, build resilience and improve their access to further information. Big Umbrella enables effective early support by delivering whole school assemblies, targeted workshops and by providing one to one guided self-help and support.
The Big Umbrella programme was developed in collaboration with local young people to promote positive mental health and wellbeing and challenge stigma. Coventry and Warwickshire Mind is currently the only organisation delivering the programme and is now in Year 4 of delivery. Through its work within primary and secondary schools in Warwickshire, Big Umbrella’s mission is reach children and young people, raise awareness of mental health issues, build resilience and improve their access to further information. Big Umbrella enables effective early support by delivering whole school assemblies, targeted workshops and by providing one to one guided self-help and support. The project is aimed at building children and young people’s resilience and equipping them with the skills to manage and maintain good mental health and wellbeing. The most common mental health issues we encounter in schools are around anger, low mood, anxiety, stress, loss and self esteem. We provide resources that we to help the child or young person develop an understanding of how they are feeling and deliver coping strategies through guided self-help and support. Workshops in Primary are only for year 6 whereas secondary schools can decide which year group will most benefit from it, and one to ones are only available for year 6 in Primary, provided they meet criteria, but for a child in any year group across secondary provided they also meet the criteria. The criteria for one to ones is that they must score between 15 and 20 on a Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). The Big Umbrella service is special because there isn’t anything else like it out there.
Coventry and Warwickshire Mind is currently the only organisation delivering the programme and we are able to educate and reduce stigma around mental health in large numbers. We have reached thousands of children and young people since we started delivering the programme. There is always an emphasis that anything learned from us can also be carried out in to their peer groups and community, so if they see someone struggling then they are able to help support them in gaining help and sharing their knowledge because they already have a number of coping strategies that they know as well as information on how to access further support should they need it. The service also allows us to see children and young people at the very start of a mental health issue developing and so potentially reducing the likelihood of it developing in to something further and therefore requiring specialist CAMHS input as well as being able to signpost and refer to the correct service as necessary, if further intervention is required. As we follow a whole school approach method, we are able to change the entire school’s culture on mental health and how to deal with it by showing that it is ok to talk about mental health by providing guidance on how to keep themselves mentally healthy, the impact that physical and mental health have on each other as well as providing those all important coping strategies that they can carry with them throughout the rest of their lives.
The following comment from a primary school teacher sums up how Big Umbrella has the power to change whole schools to build resilience: “The Big Umbrella truly opened a door for our school, making us all aware of the importance of maintaining our mental health. Children and staff have become comfortable talking about their worries and helping each other to find appropriate strategies to find solutions or at least to gain some perspective. Our Year 6 pupils enjoyed their workshop and were able to access some invaluable one to one support. In a tragic turn of events, this focus on strengthening resilience and emotional wellbeing proved to be more important for this group of Year 6 children than we could have imagined… on May 14th, at the start of SATs week, came the shocking news that the father of one of our Year 6 boys had died unexpectedly. Tears of course were shed, but there was a strength and understanding of how to cope with their own feelings and how to support their friend, that was remarkable. I am sure that the work with CW Mind laid a solid foundation for these young people, from which they had the confidence to reach out for help when they needed it, but also to be able to consider the needs of their classmate.”
Wider Active Support
Wider active support has been central to the success of the Big Umbrella service. Thanks to its excellent track record for producing positive outcomes among the children and young people we work closely with in one to ones, and the engaging way assemblies and workshops are delivered, as well as additional funding, the service has grown to be available across the whole of Warwickshire whereas previously it was only available in Rugby and Nuneaton. This achievement is thanks to positive word being spread within the network of schools in the county. Owing to this, we currently have a waiting list of over 20 schools who have requested the service, despite minimal promotion for it. We also work closely with our colleagues in national Mind to share information about the service, which has already inspired other services, as well as our commissioners, particularly the Rise mental health service (formerly the local CAMHS) which we run with Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust.
We are proud that The Big Umbrella service is child-led and the feedback we receive from the children we reach informs the direction the service takes. We also work closely with teachers to develop individual programmes according to the school’s needs, whether they have already identified children they would like us to work with on an individual basis. We also work hard to make sure our sessions are age appropriate.
Looking Back/Challenges Faced
We had not anticipated how quickly the service would grow and how demand would develop, especially as schools anticipate Ofsted will make mental health awareness in schools part of their new criteria. As the following comment shows, we are now receiving requests to reach younger children: “An amazing project. Hope it is available next year and also I wish it was available for younger year groups – even if it took a different format. We would love group sessions to be available for schools as the need for mental health support is great at the moment.” – Primary school, re: The Big U developing for younger years national Mind. We are already in the process of developing a Big Umbrella programme for younger primary school children. In response to requests, we are also developing a programme for special schools.
Coventry and Warwickshire Mind’s children and young people’s department has a large number of staff trained to work with children and young people experiencing mental health issues, and is the largest CYP department in the Mind network. As such, there is a wide range of existing expertise to draw on internally as replacements should the person leading and coordinating the service move on elsewhere. Indeed, we are training other organisations in the delivery of this programme and are well equipped to deliver in-house training where necessary, should the need arise.
Evaluation (Peer or Academic)
Big Umbrella staff use the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire to monitor and evaluate the individual outcomes of children and young people worked with in one to one sessions. Staff also collect information from children, young people and teachers through surveys and feedback forms. The qualitative and quantitative data is collected using Charity Log by Coventry and Warwickshire Mind’s performance and evaluation lead who analyses the data and produces reports which are communicated to Big Umbrella staff, Coventry and Warwickshire Mind service managers and commissioners. A sample size of children from assemblies and all workshop attendees also complete questionnaires to evaluate workshops and assemblies. One to ones are also evaluated through pre and post questionnaires completed at their first 40 minute session in week one and at their final session in week five.
Testament to the success of the service, many schools make repeated requests for our service, as this comment shows: “We have been so grateful for the amazing support we have received from CW Mind over the past year. I am wondering if we can request some further sessions for our Year 5 and Year 6 classes for the coming year?…The Big Umbrella truly opened a door for our school, making us all aware of the importance of maintaining our mental health. Children and staff have become comfortable talking about their worries and helping each other to find appropriate strategies to find solutions or at least to gain some perspective.” Another reads: “I have just been approached by a YR 6 parent who said her daughter was feeling a bit stressed about the SATS – she had told her to think about what the ‘umbrella lady’ had discussed with her and they were able to re-visit some of your strategies. Mum and daughter both clearly valued your support. As a school, we have been delighted by the fantastic service provided by The Big Umbrella. You and your colleagues have been a pleasure to meet and to work with and we very much hope we will be able to work together again.”
Our data shows that in the period from January 2018 to December 2018, the Big Umbrella saw 106 children and young people in one to ones, delivered workshops for 677 children and young people and delivered assemblies which reached 3,771 children and young people. In the last quarter, the Big Umbrella achieved a 100% SDQ score reduction in one to ones which shows how effective the service has been. Proof of the Big Umbrella’s success has been in the increased demand for the service with the waiting list of over 20 schools who have requested the service and there has been minimal promotion for it and so schools are approaching us via word of mouth from schools who have previously accessed the service.
Owing to the Big Umbrella’s success, there is huge interest in the service and it has inspired other mental health services to follow suit. So much so, the Big Umbrella is already in the process of being rolled out nationally with fellow local Minds in the Local Mind network, Newport Mind and Dorset Mind, having been trained in January 2019 to deliver the service in their areas. We continue to work with our colleagues at national Mind to share best practice in the area through national Mind’s children and young people’s network and welcome opportunities to deliver training to other mental health practitioners.
Is there any other information you would like to add?
The Big Umbrella project was originally piloted by Coventry and Warwickshire Mind and two other local Minds with DfE funding five years ago. However, when this one-year funding ended, Coventry and Warwickshire Mind was the only organisation to continue delivering it within schools and remains the only organisation to deliver Big Umbrella.
Can you please tell us who your service is commissioned by and provided by?
The Big Umbrella is commissioned by CAMHS Rise which is funded by Warwickshire County Council and the local Clinical Commissioning Group.