A pioneering project to support the mental health of children and young people, who may have suffered adverse childhood experiences, is being piloted in Cardiff and The Vale of Glamorgan.

The Resilience Project is an 18-month initiative that is being rolled out in primary and secondary schools led by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, in partnership with Mental Health Foundation, as part of the Welsh Government’s A Healthier Wales vision for a seamless health and social care sector. Welsh Government Transformation Funding has been provided via the Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Regional Partnership Board.

The new psychology-led project sits alongside the health board’s existing child and adolescent mental health services and works jointly with local authority education departments. It has already directly helped 147 families and trained more than 500 professionals.
The project is supported by the Mental Health Foundation and is aimed at building the mental health resilience of children and young people through educational settings, as opposed to the more typical clinic based alternatives.

It is being achieved by providing new resources and bespoke training for education staff, as well as clinician-led consultations for education staff. The project also provides group work promoting children’s mental health, as well as direct interventions with children and their families.
The Resilience Project’s clinical lead is Dr Gwen O’Connor who is heading a team of dedicated professionals including seven ‘resilience workers’, who are all graduates with relevant training in mental health, three clinical psychologists, an occupational therapist, an arts therapist and project manager.

Dr Gwen O’Connor said: “The Resilience Project has been set up to provide early help to those children and young people beginning to display distress, but who do not meet criteria for other services. It is breaking new ground because we are bringing together education and clinical knowledge and skills from health to improve the mental well-being of children and young people.

“What we are seeing is that the increased confidence of those working with children and young people in terms of their mental health is resulting in children getting help sooner in their school community, which should reduce the number of children needing referrals to clinic based child and adolescent mental health services.”

Dr O’Connor added: “There has long been an appetite for joint working between health and education professionals and now through this dedicated resource we are developing a more joined up approach reaching those who may have otherwise slipped through the net.”

Jenny Burns, Associate Director for Wales at Mental Health Foundation, said: “Our children and young people’s mental health needs attention, now more than ever! Those who have experienced difficult childhood experiences particularly need our attention because of the potential long-term effects on their health. The Resilience Project has navigated a new way to connect directly with teachers and the children and young people they work with, to help offset mental health issues developing or deteriorating. The Mental Health Foundation have been delighted to have helped shape this project with Cardiff and Vale Health Board to the success that it is now.”

As a result of The Resilience Project in Cardiff and The Vale of Glamorgan to date:
• 147 families have received direct interventions
• 136 consultations were delivered by Resilience Project psychologists to education staff
• 555 professionals have accessed Resilience Project training
• 237 professional have viewed Resilience Project recorded training online
• 44 bespoke resources have been developed for education staff, children and families

The Resilience Project falls within A Healthier Wales which is the Welsh Government’s long-term plan for the future of health and social care. It encourages health and social care organisations, on a national, regional and local level, to develop new ways of working seamlessly together to improve the response to local needs.

Across Wales there are a series of projects in which health, care and third sector teams are developing new partnerships and exploring new ways of working as part of the Healthier Wales initiative. The projects are funded through the Welsh Government’s Transformation Fund because they have the potential to transform the way services are delivered and have a long-lasting impact on the quality of care services.

The majority of projects are being led by regional partnership boards, developed in collaboration with patients and are being delivered by healthcare professionals who work on the front line.

The Resilience Project resources can be accessed by visiting the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board website.

Case Study: Sarah and Alice

Mum and daughter, Sarah and Alice, have been supported by The Resilience Project after Alice refused to leave the house for seven weeks during lockdown.

Both Sarah and Alice experience anxiety and mum, Sarah, felt she had hit a brick wall since Covid-19 and was unable to support her daughter.
Alice’s reluctance to go outside was based around a huge fear that her mum and dad would die if she did.

The family were linked with the Resilience Project and took part in an assessment with a Clinical Psychologist and six virtual therapy sessions with a Resilience Worker where they were given strategies, advice and ideas on how to manage Alice’s anxiety.

Sarah said: “At first, I was feeling heartbroken and couldn’t help her at all because it’s all just been doom and gloom since lockdown.

“The Resilience Project sessions helped so much though giving me lots of ideas and guidance. They were really encouraging and even praised me as a parent which helped my confidence.

“They were understanding and took their time with me so now I feel much better. It not only helped Alice but me too. The difference in her is amazing, she’s thriving! I’m absolutely astounded by how amazing they are.”