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North West and Yorkshire academy trust champions Mental Health Awareness

Focus-Trust CEO shares personal message leading Trust wide effort to support children and staff mental health


North West and West Yorkshire Academy Trust CEO Helen Rowland has gone the extra mile to boost the message of Mental Health Awareness Week this May.


Inspired by her own experience with anxiety in March 2020 when the first Covid-19 lockdown was announced, Helen took part in a Challenge Anneka road trip to visit all fifteen schools and talk with Y6 children and colleagues about what they could do if they felt anxious, overwhelmed and what they would do if someone confided in them.


As part of this challenge, Helen hand delivered 900 Y6 children and colleagues across the schools ‘My Wellbeing’ key rings, as well as encouraging an open and honest conversation around anxiety and mental wellbeing.


Each keyring displayed the message that there is always someone to talk to, following a trust-wide drive to ensure children and staff voices are prioritised, heard and acted on with a positive impact on individuals.


In 2020, close friends of Helen, Ian and Jacqui Young, CEO of Christ Church Trust and Head Teacher of St Stephen’s Primary Blackburn, tragically lost their youngest son Matthew (17 years) who suffered from social anxiety and depression. Since then, Helen has been determined to ensure children and young people receive or are signposted to the support they need for their mental health, just as much as their physical well-being.


The ‘MY Wellbeing’ charity was established in Matthew’s name, and in April each year, family and friends hold a ‘Matthew’s Memory Walk’ around his birthday.


Across the week, all fifteen Focus-Trust schools participated in a range of activities, with Thornton and Wilsden Primary Schools both being visited by author Jo Brassington, who encouraged children and staff to open up about their feelings using his book ‘Bottled.’


All schools have Mental Health First Aiders, and children and staff know where and how to access support. Additionally, school websites contain dedicated pages that provide valuable resources and assistance for families.


Helen Rowland, CEO of Focus-Trust, said: “It’s an absolute privilege to be Focus-Trust’s CEO, and the recent Mental Health Roadshow with Y6 children and colleagues was the most rewarding week of my 10-year career!


The journey was an emotional yet uplifting experience, and I’m already looking forward to my road trip in 2024.


This year, Matthew’s mum, Jacqui, and I will be climbing the UK Three Peaks on August 18th – 21stto raise funds for Papyrus and My Wellbeing.”


‘Supporting great health and wellbeing for all’ is one of Focus-Trust’s five strategic priorities, and children and colleagues’ mental health and wellbeing is a primary concern.


Focus-Trust is a charitable primary schools trust which is based in the North West of England and West Yorkshire with a vision of providing ‘great schools at the heart of our communities’ where children thrive, achieve and succeed.

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Helen Rowland at Rudheath Primary Academy

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