Liverpool school launches mental health support for its community





The Academy of St Francis of Assisi (ASFA) has formed its own mental health impact team in a bid to offer continuous support for the whole school community. Recognising the needs of students following the pandemic, Mrs Abigail Huthwaite, head of performing arts and senior mental health lead at the academy, developed the initiative with other members of the senior leadership team. The mental health impact team (MHIT) is formed of qualified practitioners, including mental health first aiders, an emotional literacy support assistant, emotion coach Sarah Brooks and school counsellor Ray Loftus. The team has experience in emotional wellbeing and work directly within the school. They work with families and their child to determine the best course of action if they need support. Year 9 and Year 11 students have volunteered to become mental health ambassadors and mentors. The students received training to deliver assemblies and podcasts, and 1:1 peer support. The ambassadors have launched a podcast called ‘The Assisi Way’ which discusses many topics related to mental health and wellbeing. Regular updates from the MHIT, ambassadors and mentors are also detailed in a half termly newsletter to parents and guardians. The academy recently held a drop-down day around respect. ‘St Francis Respects’ day enabled students to understand more about the importance of respect in different settings. Mrs Huthwaite said: “Here at ASFA, we identified that post-pandemic our students may need some additional help as they navigate life back to ‘normality’. “Together with other qualified practitioners we are able to offer bespoke support to our students who are all from different walks of life.” Headteacher Ms Jo Leech commented: “As an academy, we pride ourselves on our strong vision of ambition and aspiration for all and, first and foremost, this starts with recognising the importance of good mental health.”