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Children’s mental health service goes free during coronavirus crisis

Birmingham | Coronavirus | Published:

A Birmingham-based children’s mental wellbeing service is being offered for free to help school pupils cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

Councillor Charlotte Hodivala, left, and Dr Liz England, right - founders of MindSafe. Credit: MindSafe

MindSafe is an online platform which allows children to privately express and manage their feelings and access support, which launched late last year.

As the coronavirus crisis took hold and the majority of pupils in the UK are now unable to go school, the founders decided to open it up to all schools and parents for free.

It was founded by Charlotte Hodivala, Birmingham City Councillor for the Sutton Reddicap Ward who also works for a pharmaceutical company, and Dr Liz England, a GP and mental health clinical lead for the Royal College of General Practitioners.

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Prior to the pandemic, the service was offered to primary schools at a price related to pupil numbers with an average-sized school paying around £2,000 to £2,500.

But in response to the lockdown, the service is being made available to both primary and secondary schools for free as well as individual parents, for the remainder of the Covid-19 crisis.

The service can be accessed online and includes a mood diary, journal, “About Me” section and a Talk function, and also allows children to request further support from a chosen adult.

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It was developed through consultation with children, schools and mental health experts.

Birmingham City Council, Walsall Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire County Council have recommended MindSafe to schools within their area, Councillor Hodivala said.

Schools are able to use anonymised data from the mood diary to help make decisions about which age groups or genders may need support for particular issues.

Councillor Hodivala said: “Everywhere we look, children are getting more stressed. They are growing up in an age that has pressures we never had. Being mentally strong has a huge impact on your life.

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Respite

“We need to help them in the world they are growing up in. We need something that’s relevant, familiar and accessible to them.

“We had no idea when we launched that Covid-19 was going to happen. When the schools closed down, we thought ‘all these children are at home’.

“Children who used school as a respite from home can’t go there. Everyone will be worried about their grandma and grandpa. We thought ‘what can we do to reach these children?’.

“We decided to make it free for any school, and any parent can sign up for a free account. We want to reach children and families at home who are worried.”

Helen Lowe, Primary Head of Washwood Heath Academy which has previously signed up to the service, said: “One of the great things about MindSafe is knowing that our pupils are socially, emotionally and mentally well-supported wherever they are.

“This child-centred resource allows the children themselves to manage their own social and emotional feelings with the added support of a chosen adult.”

The service can be accessed at mind-safe.com

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