We must support children’s emotional wellbeing from an early age As we start to better understand the full impact of COVID-19 on the West London community, it is clear that a renewed focus on supporting children’s emotional wellbeing early on is critical to enabling a full recovery and re-building post-pandemic. 1 in 8 children have a diagnosable mental health disorder – that’s roughly 3 children in every classroom. Half of all mental health problems manifest by the age of 14.* At West London Zone we believe we have an incredible opportunity to provide the emotional and mental health support young people need from an early age. We know that providing effective support can really help young people manage their feelings, face challenges and overcome problems. We also know that providing this support early on can prevent problems from escalating to a crisis point. “We see the West London Zone programme as being fundamental to developing young people’s social and emotional skills again post-Covid”Headteacher Our Link Workers are trained in trauma-informed practice, mental health first aid, basic counselling skills and solutions-focused practice, and are fully embedded in the school community. This means they have the skills and tools to create positive change through their relational work with young people. Link Workers build trust and a deep understanding of each individual child’s needs and family context, helping to break down stigma and normalising access to mental health support. We can then introduce our specialist wellbeing partners to deliver support in schools. Our partners currently include Place2Be, West London Action for Children, ReACT drama therapy, Unlocking Potential, independent child counsellors and play therapists and Khulisa. “It’s wonderful to work with people who are so passionate about supporting children I really count myself lucky to be working with you” Unlocking Potential Occupational Therapist With the knowledge that most lifelong mental health issues begin in childhood, we work hard to ensure all children and young people can talk about their feelings and wellbeing early on. We bring the specialist support into schools when needed, we break down the stigma and myths surrounding mental health support and encourage the child (and their family) to attend sessions and fully engage in the specialist clinical/therapeutic support they need. Our hope is that the children and young people on the West London Zone Programme will leave the programme with good emotional and mental wellbeing and that this will help them to cope with life’s challenges in a post-COVID-19 world. Jenny Hoyle, Delivery Director *Research from Young Minds.