A unique city partnership to improve the mental health and future potential of children living in Birmingham has been announced during Anti-Bullying Week 2019 (Monday 11 to Friday 15 November).
Three of the region’s most prestigious organisations, University of Birmingham, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and HSBC UK have joined forces to take action on childhood bullying, a preventable root cause of mental ill-health.
The partners aim to investigate the scale of bullying in schools across the city, as well as pilot an internationally-recognised intervention programme that reduces bullying, preventing the onset of mental ill-health, whilst at the same time improving educational, employment and health outcomes.
Childhood is a crucial time for establishing good mental health and wellbeing and yet it is estimated that currently three children in every classroom across Birmingham have a significant, diagnosable mental health condition.
International data shows that over 50% of all mental health concerns start before the age of 14-years-old and that children who were bullied at 13 are twice as likely to develop depression by the age of 18.
Thanks to the generous support and vision of HSBC UK as the founding donor, the partnership will see the University of Birmingham and Birmingham Children’s Hospital explore the links to understand the relationship between predictors and incidents of bullying in Birmingham. It will also uncover the scale of the problem in the city and identify the ‘hidden’ communities of children who are affected, making it a first crucial step to help the NHS predict future demand.
Alongside understanding the scale of the bullying, researchers from the University of Birmingham and Birmingham Children’s Hospital will go on to trial an innovative intervention scheme – the KiVa programme.
KiVa is an evidence-based school programme that has been successful in Finland, the Netherlands and Italy but has never-before been trialled in England. The approach equips children and young people with the tools to support each other, shifting the focus away from the bullying behaviour and giving them the skills to change the experience.
The pilot will begin in four schools, including The Meadows Primary School and Wychall Primary School, both in Northfield, Bournville School Primary in Bournville and St. Mary's CE Primary School in Selly Oak, before rolling out to a further 30 schools, as part of a multi-site national trial, with a view to eventually reaching over 8,000 children in its first stage.
Birmingham’s youth mental health crisis is critical to the wellbeing of the city. HSBC UK is therefore delighted to be funding the intervention, as Michaela Wright, Head of Corporate Sustainability at HSBC UK, explains: “HSBC UK is committed to supporting the local community, especially in our home city. Whilst there are no official local statistics of the number of children in Birmingham who experience bullying, indicators suggest it is a significant problem. We are proud to be supporting this important initiative to tackle bullying and improve mental health in Birmingham.”
Sarah-Jane Marsh, Chief Executive of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The impact of bullying on a child or young person is profound and although the warning signs are there at the time, no-one really knows the longer-term consequences. This partnership is a chance to change the life-story of thousands of children and young people in Birmingham and beyond and I could not be more excited about the potential opportunities and learnings ahead.”
Professor Tim Jones, Provost and Vice-Principal at the University of Birmingham, added: “This unique partnership allows us to address one of the biggest challenges facing our city. By intervening and bringing bullying into stark focus, we can explore its impact on mental health in Birmingham – and identify effective interventions. Together, we hope to reduce the impact of bullying in local schools and contribute to better mental health for young people and their long-term outcomes across Birmingham and beyond.”