General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Kids mental health in focus



An initiative that aims to promote children's positive mental wellbeing has been highlighted in south Belfast.

On a visit to Botanic Primary School, the Stormont Health Minister Michael McGimpsey saw at first hand the new 'Roots of Empathy' programme.

It is an 'evidence-based' classroom programme that has been shown to reduce aggression levels among primary school children while raising social and emotional competence.

Endorsed by the World Health Organisation, the programme has already been rolled out across Canada, New Zealand and the USA.

The Minister (pictured) said: "Positive mental health and wellbeing in childhood is crucial to the development of social and emotional skills, and for successful learning.

"High self-esteem, strong emotional resilience, and the ability to experience empathy and trust are essential for children to form strong and supportive bonds with others.

"There is overwhelming evidence to indicate that if the ability to empathise is not developed in childhood, it becomes much more difficult to develop later in life leading to greater risk of aggression and relationship problems.

"Schools-based programmes to reduce aggression and increase empathy therefore have important long-term as well as short term outcomes," he said, noting that the Roots of Empathy Programme has been shown to reduce aggression and bullying, and to improve self esteem.

"That is why we are piloting the programme as part of our more general approach to mental health and wellbeing promotion in the early-years.

"I welcome this opportunity to witness the delivery of Roots of Empathy in the classroom"

Aggressive behaviour in childhood is a risk factor for violence, criminal behaviour, and emotional difficulty in adulthood.

The school setting therefore provides a significant opportunity for early intervention to promote positive mental health and wellbeing, essential for successful learning and education.


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