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Children as young as six taught importance of mental health on World Mental Health Day

PUBLISHED: 16:17 10 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:32 10 October 2019

Jay, Florence, Santiago and Polly learned about the importance of opening up about feelings at the Suffolk Mind workshop  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Jay, Florence, Santiago and Polly learned about the importance of opening up about feelings at the Suffolk Mind workshop Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Primary school children in Ipswich have been encouraged to open up about their problems as part of a new series of lessons launched on World Mental Health Day.

Suffolk Mind has launched a new programme to help prevent mental illness in primary school children Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNSuffolk Mind has launched a new programme to help prevent mental illness in primary school children Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

EARLY Minds, run by the charity Suffolk Mind, aims to show children as young as six that it is okay to speak about their problems and how to look out for one another in the classroom and on the playground.

Children from St Helen's Primary School in Ipswich were invited to Quay Place in Ipswich to learn about how to handle stressful situations and pay attention to each other's needs.

But on top of usual childhood stresses, experts say the rise in screen time, as well as stricter education targets, have changed mental health compared to previous generations.

According to research by the charity, 60% of young people between 11 and 19 will experience mental health problems themselves, or are close to someone who has.

Lead trainer Charlie Green from Suffolk Mind taught children about how to tackle their fears and talk and listen to peers about their problems    Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNLead trainer Charlie Green from Suffolk Mind taught children about how to tackle their fears and talk and listen to peers about their problems Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Jon Neal, chief executive at Suffolk Mind, said: "As well as helping people who have become unwell, we want to focus a lot of attention on helping people to stay well.

"By teaching children about their emotional needs and how they can get those emotional needs met and avoid stress in the future, we are helping them to help themselves and the people around them."

Mr Neal added that the scheme was developed as government plans only deal with symptoms of unmet needs, rather than the causes of mental ill health.

As part of the launch, children were taught how to use the "dragon breathing" technique to remain calm and refresh their minds when faced with something that stresses them.

Scarlett enjoying the workshop   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNScarlett enjoying the workshop Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Charlie Green, lead trainer for the project, said: "It is one of the big debates - has it got worse or are people speaking more open about it? What we do know is 75% of mental health issues that show up in adulthood originate from childhood.

"It is really important to give people awareness when young and also coping mechanisms, skills and resources so not only can we notice things, but we can do something about them."

Mrs Green added that as a mother, she has experienced first-hand how the stresses can be bought back into the home.

She said: "It is common sense, a lot of this - we are not trying to complicate things with advanced psychology, we are using how the human brain works."

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