In response to high waiting lists for and poor access to child mental health services in the Western Trust of Northern Ireland, a programme aimed at improving mental wellbeing and resilience was delivered to 42 primary schools across County Derry and County Fermanagh.

This programme was delivered to 562 children over 488 storytelling sessions delivered across 732 hours.

Emotional problems significantly reduced in children, and mental wellbeing significantly increased for children in the most deprived areas. For example, increases in mental wellbeing were 66% higher for children in the most deprived area compared to the least deprived. These findings show that this programme is effective at improving mental health, with greater benefits found for vulnerable and at-risk children.

Resilience significantly improved for the younger children in Primary 7 classes. This indicates that the resilience component of the programme can help young children to manage and overcome challenges as they prepare to transition to secondary school.

Conduct problems significantly decreased in girls and those in less deprived areas, suggesting that story-based interventions are helpful for reducing instances of poor behaviour in these groups.

77% of children enjoyed taking part in the programme, 83% felt listened to during story discussions, and

64% felt that taking part in the programme had improved their mood. 85% of those who took part would be willing to recommend the programme to others, leaving end-of-programme feedback such as "I wish you never left".

Feedback from both children and facilitators showed that children loved the story sessions and enjoyed taking part in discussions. Feedback demonstrates that sessions could improve children's listening skills, encourage them to share their opinions, teach them about mental health and coping strategies, provide a safe space for conversations on topics such as loss and change, and encouraged children with Special Education Needs and non-verbal children to share their thoughts and use their voice.

To read the full report, please click here.

To view a summary infographic, please click here.