Northampton headteacher scoops award for mental health programme

The LightBulb programme aims to train teachers and parents to spot signs of mental illness in children and prevent serious and complex conditions from developing at early stages

By Megan Hillery
Friday, 1st July 2022, 10:15 am

A headteacher who oversees a school that is located within a secure psychiatric hospital has scooped a top award for her prevention work within mental health and education.

Cheryl Smith, who is based at St Andrew’s Healthcare in Northampton, picked up the Community Changemaker of the Year prize at the annual Changemaker Awards ceremony, which is hosted by the University of Northampton (UoN).

Ms Smith was recognised at the glitzy event, held at the Park Inn Hotel, for launching the LightBulb programme, which was designed to help teachers spot the early signs of mental health issues in children and then take appropriate, early action.

Cheryl Smith is the Headteacher of the St Andrew's CAMHS College.

Ms Smith said: “To be named the winner of such a prestigious award is such a huge honour and, frankly, I was rather overwhelmed when my name was called out.

“I would like to thank the judges and the Changemaker hosts for inviting me and for this stunning award. However, I can’t actually take all the credit for this prize, as I have such a brilliant team behind me who are the ones that go into the schools and deliver the programme.”

Schools that sign up to the LightBulb programme receive mental health awareness and support training for all staff as well as sessions for both parents and students. Each session talks about symptoms, support and signposts resources.

Ms Smith continued: “Collectively, we feel so passionately about helping young people who may really be struggling with their mental health but not understanding their feelings.

“We know from experience that children don’t always recognise what is going on and sometimes hide their emotions, but that can be where the problems start.

“So, by educating the children about their feelings, how to recognise them and how to ask for help, we’re giving them permission to open up conversations about it.”

Since LightBulb was launched in 2021, the programme has been delivered at 32 schools and reached more than 11,500 children. The LightBulb team is already looking at how they can take the programme to a national level.

Both primary and secondary schools up and down the country are eligible to sign up for the LightBulb programme.

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Due to St Andrew’s Healthcare being a charity, the programme is not a profit-making initiative and will cost the school £1 per pupil if commissioned.

Director of enterprise and employability from UoN Wray Irwin said: “We were so impressed by the amazing work that Cheryl and her team have rolled out in a very short space of time, that it made complete sense to name her the winner.

“We know that mental health issues are on the rise among young people, and yet health resources are so stretched, it was really wonderful to read about the LightBulb programme and how it has already made such an impactful impression on our young people across the county.”

For more information or to sign up to LightBulb, email [email protected]