In response to high waiting lists for child mental health services in the Western Trust of Northern Ireland, programmes aimed at improving resilience and mental wellbeing were delivered in 15 primary schools and 3 secondary schools in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area.

These programmes were delivered to 268 children over 187 storytelling sessions delivered across 281 hours.

Resilience significantly improved after taking part in the programme, with larger increases seen in younger children. This indicates that Verbal’s resilience programmes can help children manage and overcome challenges, particularly for those preparing to transition to secondary school.

Mental wellbeing significantly improved in girls and younger children, and a significant increase in prosocial behaviour was found in girls after taking part. This suggests that the programme was particularly successful for girls and children transitioning to secondary school.

77% of children enjoyed taking part in the programme, 71% felt listened to during story discussions, and 63% felt that taking part in the programme had improved their mood. 89% of those who took part would be willing to recommend the programme to others, describing it as "amazing", "the best" and "easy to listen [to]".

Volunteer feedback referenced children loving stories and “engag[ing] well at the conversation” with “loads of input from different children”. Stories and themes personally resonated with children, including topics such as discussing fears and moving to a new school. Volunteers enjoyed delivering the programme, feeling that it led to “a lot of fun and satisfaction” and reporting improvements to their mood that day.

To read the full report, please click here.