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Foundation students’ mental health work recognised by Lisa Nandy

Dean Trust Rose Bridge pupils were congratulated on their social action project by Wigan’s local MP.

| by Matthew Brown

Students from Manchester United Foundation partner high school, Dean Trust Rose Bridge, have had their social action project recognised by Lisa Nandy, MP for Wigan.

Year 9 and 10 pupils who form part of Dean Trust Rose Bridge’s youth-led social action group have been working on the design of a ‘Happy To Chat Space’ – a mental health initiative being rolled out this week across the Foundation’s partner schools.

Happy To Chat Spaces encourage children to come together to strengthen and forge friendships and have a conversation to support their mental health – no matter the topic.

With the support of a local artist, Dean Trust Rose Bridge pupils have created a compelling graffiti design which reads ‘You are not alone’, which is made complete with a Foundation ‘Happy To Chat’ sticker signposting the spot as a dedicated area for wellbeing.

During Children’s Mental Health Week, Lisa visited pupils at the school to discuss their work and the inspiration behind the design, their wellbeing, and pertinent issues to them in their local community. Lisa also participated in games using the Foundation’s wellbeing ball, which features several positive phrases that encourage pupils to talk openly about their mental health.

Lisa said: “It’s phenomenal what’s being done here at Dean Trust Rose Bridge – a youth-led project extending support to young people, which has the strong support of the school and Manchester United Foundation.

“The pupils are showing decency, openness, kindness – values which do the school and the whole of Wigan proud. The creativity on display here is incredible, it’s been game-changing and a real shot in the arm to see it today.”

One of the pupils involved, Millie, 15, said: “Lots of people struggle with their mental health and not many people talk about it. This space really has helped by people coming to sit on it and make new friends – and it’s not just for talking about your problems, but a nice distraction from everything else.

“It felt really good that Lisa understood why we had done this and for her to praise us. When we all found out she was visiting, it was good because she’s someone we look up to and she speaks for our community. She loved the space and we’ve all really enjoyed making it, it’s helped a lot of people and has been really good for our school.”

The Happy To Chat initiative has formed part of the Foundation’s inter-school Premier League Inspires challenge this season, which is also focused around mental health.

With Dean Trust Rose Bridge selected as winners among our schools, they will now go on to represent Manchester United Foundation in London, at the home stadium of Arsenal FC, at a national event in April.

Connor Hughes, school partnership officer for the Foundation at Dean Trust Rose Bridge, added: “It has been brilliant to see the work the students in our social action group have been doing to promote mental health and wellbeing to support their peers in school.

“For their work to be highlighted by a visit from their local MP is amazing and very-much deserved. We are so proud of their efforts and the opportunity to represent Manchester United at a national Premier League Inspires event will be another brilliant experience for them.”

Jason Williamson, the Foundation’s partner high school coordinator and mental health lead, added: “Seeing the expression of creativity as we roll out the Happy To Chat initiative has been fantastic.

“There are already so many brilliant spaces, which we hope can bring pupils together, encourage new friendships and provide an overall positive impact on every young person in our schools.”

Wellbeing is at the forefront of the Foundation’s work with the ‘United Minds’ programme – which includes use of the wellbeing ball – being delivered across our partner schools.

More than 2,000 pupils engaged in the programme during the 2022/23 season, which helps to develop and nurture healthy wellbeing strategies. This also included the creation of a student-led United Minds podcast, allowing students to explore their mental wellbeing in greater depth by discussing topics relevant to them. Find out more by clicking here.