University of Winchester supports children's summer challenge designed to boost mental health

28 Jul 2020

The University of Winchester is supporting charity to offer children of all ages a fun summer challenge that can help give a much-needed mental boost.

Children's mental health charity stormbreak is encouraging families to introduce some mentally healthy movement into their daily routine during the summer holidays.

stormbreak@home is a fun, engaging and pressure-free challenge for children of primary school age, who can be joined by families, carers and trusted adults to log on to from Saturday 1 August and complete daily 'stormbreaks' to support their mental and physical health.

With purposeful movement a cornerstone for nurturing better mental health, each 'stormbreak' has been carefully devised by a team of children's movement and mental health experts and is delivered by a trained stormbreak coach.

Each 'stormbreak' also focuses on specific areas of child mental health such as relationships, resilience, self-care, self-worth and hope and optimism in a gentle and encouraging way, with activities given titles such as Moon and Stars, Monkey Chatter, Lily Pad Leaps and Make Friends With A Creature.

Through the dedicated website ( children can earn virtual badges and certificates for participating. While they are encouraged to try to join the 'stormbreak' live sessions at 10.30am every weekday throughout August, there is no compulsion and they can be undertaken whenever and wherever they like.

The charity is launching the stormbreak summer challenge with the support of BBC Children in Need's A Million and Me programme - and is doing so at a critical juncture with children's mental health in the UK. The University of Winchester has given further investment to the charity since it launched in 2019, to support the delivery of mentally healthy movement in primary schools across Hampshire and Dorset.

Dr Vicky Randall, a Senior Fellow at the University of Winchester and Director for Teaching and Learning at stormbreak said: "Stormbreak is unique in realising and harnessing the often-overlooked importance of movement to promote positive mental health. Simple and inclusive movements can help young people make sense of a wide range of emotions while being creative and active using their bodies. This is such a crucial area of health and development relevant for all children."

The coronavirus pandemic and ensuing closure of schools and increased isolation for children and young people has further amplified the need to teach mentally healthy coping skills from a young age, rather than leaving children unsupported or facing more difficult and expensive solutions in adolescence and later life.

The new 'Emerging Evidence' report from the Child Outcomes Research Consortium found the pandemic is: "having significant impacts on children and young people's mental health, contributing to the onset as well as exacerbation of worry, fear, anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress."

A recent report by the All Party Parliamentary Group On A Fit And Healthy Childhood, co-sponsored by the Universities of Winchester and Bournemouth, concluded Government policy should be to position increased movement and physical activity in schools as a preventative approach to mental health support in young people.

Dr Martin Yelling, stormbreak founder, said: "Whether children or adults, many of usinstinctively appreciate how moving helps us feel better and supports our emotional and mental health.
"stormbreak takes this one stage further by bringing in mentally healthy movement for children that helps raise awareness of their natural feelings and responses to situations - and crucially also provides strategies to deal with them.

"We were already seeing great progress with our in-school programme in the South West before coronavirus hit. It is amazing how regular, embedded, purposeful movement can support mental health - and that's for all of us, not just children."

"Now, our work is even more important, with many children not having been in school since March and the absence from mixing with their peer groups having a disproportionately harsh effect on those from more deprived socio-economic backgrounds. We hope to reach as many as possible through the summer challenge."

The stormbreak challenge is supported by BBC Children in Need, A Million and Me, an initiative that seeks to develop support systems around children who are beginning to struggle with their mental health and wellbeing, at home and in the community.

Paddy Sloan, Director of A Million and Me, says: "Engaging children in fun activities that are designed to help them cope with emotional challenges, particularly at this time, is a great way to encourage a positive approach to life and to enable children to feel better about themselves."

The stormbreak summer challenge will be a fun welcome for all who would like to find out what stormbreak is all about and benefit from the sessions.

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