FUNDING has been given to help children at three West Somerset schools to learn to cope with mental health challenges.

West Somerset Opportunity Area is strengthening the wellbeing and child mental health provision in West Somerset by funding face to face training in coping strategies for a range of mental health challenges.

The new service is being offered by Young Somerset, the largest youth work charity in the county.

Heidi Hemington, a child mental health practitioner, will work from three schools, Danesfield Middle, Minehead Middle and West Somerset College, to give support to more than 100 children and their families.

Individuals and family members will have access to courses covering a range of common issues for young people, such as anxiety, stress, low mood, phobias and panic.

As a recent graduate of Exeter University’s post-graduate Low Intensity CBT programme for Children, Young People and Families, Heidi will offer a toolkit of strategies that can help rebalance negative thinking.

Heidi grew up in Somerset and said she understands the issues faced by its young people, Heidi says: “Alongside the therapeutic work I do, I really want this role to raise awareness of child mental health in Somerset. Young people in West Somerset can often feel isolated and need to travel long distances to find support groups and access help.

" I see this work as helping them learn to thrive with the challenges of being a teenager but also the additional wellbeing challenges of living somewhere geographically remote.”

The new initiative has just started but due to Covid-19 regulations it is currently being offered through virtual sessions.

Training in person will resume, once lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Nik Harwood, chief executive of Young Somerset adds: “Heidi’s appointment is a new, locally focused solution that brings child mental health provision in line with other areas of the county. We know that currently two thirds of young people are experiencing some form of anxiety, with depression the second greatest problem after that.

"Heidi’s role is to work within the school setting, helping solve problems at an early stage. In addition, she offers important support not only for children but where required, can help their families and carers too.”