Sunderland Youth Parliament (SYP) is celebrating the launch of a city-wide Mental Health Charter Mark for schools, thought to be the first of its kind in the country.
SYP decided to tackle the issue of mental health after a national debate in 2016 highlighted the topic as one of the main issues of concern for young people.
The group, which is supported by Together for Children, came up with the idea of a Charter Mark for schools across the city and worked with partner organisations including Community CAMHS, Washington Mind, Sunderland Counselling Services, South Tyneside NHS, Sunderland CCG and Sunderland City Council to turn the idea a reality.
The Mental Health Charter Mark is intended to help schools evaluate and improve their work in supporting pupils with mental health needs, setting out a pathway of bronze, silver and gold criteria which details the steps that can be taken by schools to improve and how any actions can be evaluated.
The scheme is thought to be the first of its kind in the country to see young people bringing partner organisations together to create a city-wide approach to improving mental health practice in schools.
Rachel Krajovska, 18, from Grangetown, chair of Sunderland Youth Parliament, said: “The launch of the Charter Mark is so exciting after all of our hard work and efforts to take it from a fledgling idea into a fully thought-out scheme that is endorsed by so many organisations.
“It is fantastic that so many partners in the city and wider region recognise the importance of working with young people to promote positive mental health. It’s a really fantastic step forward for the city and we’re proud to have played a part in making it happen.”
Simon Marshall, director for Education at Together for Children, which supported SYP to bring the idea to life, said: “Everyone who has been involved the development of the Charter Mark scheme should feel proud that as a group we have stopped to listen to what our young people really want. By letting them lead the way we have created a fantastic and unique scheme that should have ongoing benefits for our children and schools across the city.
“What’s even better is that the Charter Mark is flexible enough to be adopted beyond the school environment and has the potential to be used by other organisations looking to evaluate and develop their mental health offering. Today’s launch is just the first step and I’m sure we’ll see the scheme expand even further over the next year.”
Councillor Louise Farthing, Portfolio Holder for Children's Services at Sunderland City Council, added: “Sunderland Youth Parliament are to be commended for their hard work in bringing their fantastic idea to reality. It is wonderful that the young people of our city have a forum to put forward their forward-thinking suggestions on how things can be done differently and make for positive change for all. Well done to everyone involved.”