School pupils work with university experts to promote mental health

Students from a girls’ grammar school have worked with educational psychologists from The University of Manchester to develop an accessible and appealing mental health strategy for their school.

Lecturer in Education & Child Psychology Dr Cathy Atkinson has worked with colleagues including Dr George Thomas, a recent Manchester graduate who is now an honorary lecturer and an educational psychologist working for Bright Futures Educational Trust, to devise the strategy alongside pupils at Altrincham Grammar School for Girls who act as ‘wellbeing ambassadors’ for their fellow students.

The researchers planned sessions using resources which they thought were visual and appealing, but the wellbeing ambassadors had strong views about their relevance to young people, and proposed their own creative and innovative solutions. 

One of their ideas was an accessible quiz to determine when and how to seek help. The ambassadors consulted with other students, and developed their own communications strategy to promote the subject around the school.


Although there is increasing interest in promoting mental health and wellbeing within education, to date, the voices of young people appear to have been almost completely overlooked in the development of school-based mental health practices - this is despite increasing focus on young people’s participation, and the fact that young people are best positioned to understand the pressures of contemporary society.
Dr Cathy Atkinson

“We understand that recognising the signs associated with mental health problems, intervening to provide early support and signposting to other sources of help are crucial in promoting our students’ ongoing wellbeing,” said Jenny Ogunmyiwa, Vice Principal at Altrincham Grammar School for Girls. “Our wellbeing ambassadors are working hard in school to ensure that student contributions are used to promote a greater understanding of mental health within the student body and to develop effective mental health support.”

Dr Atkinson and Dr Thomas are presenting their research at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Educational & Child Psychology annual conference, which takes place from 11-12 January in Brighton.

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