A new initiative for schools that aims to support students' psychological wellbeing has been launched by Leeds psychologist, Charlotte Armitage.

The YAFTA Project, founded by award-winning businesswoman, psychologist and psychotherapist, Charlotte Armitage hosts acting classes in schools with a focus on the development of psychological skills to support individual student growth, mental health, and wellbeing.

Charlotte, who is also the managing director of Yorkshire Academy of Film and Television Acting (YAFTA) based in Leeds, which specialises in screen acting courses for young people and adults said: “This past 18 months have been extremely disruptive and challenging for young people. As someone who works in mental health and supports people psychologically on a daily basis, I am passionate about preventative care to avoid a pandemic of mental illness developing in the current generation of children.

The YAFTA Project offers an engaging, non-invasive, inclusive opportunity to identify and address the early presentations of anxiety in school-age pupils, from KS1 to KS4. It enables the delivery of intervention at a stage to prevent anxieties manifesting as more challenging behavioral difficulties in adolescence and adulthood.”

The launch of the project comes after NHS England recently announced that young people had been “hit hard” by the Covid-19 crisis, the worry that self-harm is becoming normalised in young people and Mental Health Minister, Nadine Dorries warning against labeling a generation of young people with mental health issues.*

Charlotte adds: “The school environment has a significant influence on the development of each child and is, therefore, an appropriate, controlled environment to offer activities that support mental health outside of traditional mental health services. Participation in the arts has long been proven to be a therapeutic, creative outlet for individuals to express their emotions and feelings.
Mental distress presents differently in children compared to adults, and many times this anxiety or distress is not recognized in children as it can present in a number of different ways. Addressing anxiety early on can prevent it from manifesting into difficulties that can become much harder to treat. Given the impact that the lockdown and pandemic have had on children’s mental health and wellbeing now is a crucial time for a safe, emotional outlet to be offered to children.”

The YAFTA Project provides after-school and integrated curriculum-based courses taught by professional acting tutors. The courses are supported by a team of mental health professionals who work with the teaching team to advise on the appropriate delivery of the courses to facilitate good mental health amongst the school population. The scheme will launch in schools across Yorkshire in September 2021.

For schools who are interested in offering The YAFTA Project, further details are available at www.theyaftaproject.com