Case Study

Delivering a preventative mental health culture in Bury schools

A programme of mental health education in primary schools is having a significant impact in Bury schools.
Ben Charman

2 August 2023

Bury, Greater Manchester, is seeing a positive impact on children, staff and parent wellbeing following the implementation of myHappymind, a programme of mental wellbeing education and support that is commissioned by the NHS and delivered by primary school teachers.

Key benefits and outcomes

  • 89 per cent of teachers said that children have learned to self-regulate through the programme.
  • 80 per cent of teachers reported seeing their children's self-esteem improve from using the programme.
  • For every £1 invested in the programme, the NHS saves £2. [ 2 ]

What the organisation faced

Families in Bury, Greater Manchester, have been experiencing a significant need around children and young people’s mental health following the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation mirrors the national picture, with data from NHS Digital suggesting that one in six children aged five to 16 had a mental health problem in July 2020, an increase from one in nine in 2017.

Despite more investment in NHS services, young people’s experiences of the pandemic have led to even greater demand than before, leaving services overstretched. In 2021, the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition reported that fewer than 40 per cent of those under 17 with a mental health condition were able to access NHS support.

The most common type of mental health issues that children and young people face are anxiety, depression and eating disorders, as well as everyday struggles to maintain confidence, positivity and resilience. Without appropriate interventions even minor issues are at risk of escalating, with those children then joining waiting lists for specialist support.

Initial surveys with primary schools in Bury found that 53 per cent of teachers had never been offered a programme to help them understand mental wellbeing. In comparison, as many as 71 per cent reported that over half of their children had been emotionally affected following the COVID-19 pandemic.

What the organisation did

In 2021, the then Bury Clinical Commissioning Group commissioned myHappymind to ensure primary schools in Bury had access to age-appropriate and preventative education, to reduce the number of children getting to the stage of clinical mental health ill-health. The programme was initially rolled out in schools with the highest deprivation index.

myHappymind is a fully digital learning programme, taught by teachers, with the core plan consisting of 20-minute sessions for children in years one-to-five, to be taught once per week. myHappymind is taught to every child in a school from age three to 11.

There are 13 additional lessons and activities for children undergoing the transition from year six to secondary school and other resources are available on demand. All the content is presented in a colourful, child-friendly manner.

The staff have access to a CPD-certified digital wellbeing course, while parents can access an app to understand the content and support their child's journey. This systemic approach enables maximum engagement with the community, supports patient and public engagement, and ensures sustainability.

As well as continuing to operate in Bury primary schools, they have also extended the offer to families with children on a waiting list for specialist services, to provide interim support for those with the most acute difficulties. 

Results and benefits

Teachers and parents in Bury have left positive reviews about the programme's impact on the wellbeing of their children who are learning to manage their mental health. In follow-up surveys, 89 per cent of teachers have said that their children have learned to self-regulate through the programme, while 80 per cent report seeing children's self-esteem improve from using the programme.

Following deployment of myHappymind, referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in other areas of the country were reduced by 43 per cent. For children already on waiting lists, it supports self-management techniques in children, both for themselves and their families.

The organisation notes that the approach does not place any pressure on the NHS system, as teachers deliver it. This takes the pressure off the NHS workforce and upskills a new group of professionals to help deliver support, early help and prevention.

A Health Economic study recently completed by Health Innovation Manchester found that myHappymind delivers a positive financial return on investment within the first year. For every £1 spent on myHappymind, the NHS saves at least £2.

The programme is now in over 75 per cent of primary schools in Bury, including many nurseries, with plans to reach 100 per cent by the end of 2023. The organisation is working closely with Health Innovation Manchester and NHS Greater Manchester Integrated Care Board.

Being delivered digitally, myHappymind has been able to scale up support quickly while ensuring that the implementation of the course remains consistent wherever it is taught.

Overcoming obstacles

Being mindful of health inequity and addressing health inequalities in Bury were also crucial to both myHappymind and place-based leaders within the area. The programme aims to reduce health inequities and anticipated some potential obstacles, which they were able to overcome:

  • Being delivered in school through the school’s technology mitigates the effect of access inequality, which other digital mental health solutions may be subject to.
  • To avoid exclusion of non-attending children, the programme is available digitally to families whose children are not currently in school due to social and emotional factors.
  • To ensure that children with learning disabilities can also benefit, myHappymind designed the programme to support both neurodiverse and neurotypical children. They also have a dedicated ‘special schools’ programme for children with higher levels of need.

Takeaway tips

  • Having NHS and local authority engagement in the process of selecting schools and keeping everyone informed on the journey has been crucial to the growth of the programme.
  • Engaging schools, and fully funding the programme for them initially, helped get them started, before being replaced by a more sustainable co-funded model as the relationship developed.
  • Targeting areas of higher deprivation first allows many health inequities to be addressed and therefore huge impact to be made fast.

Further information

For further information on the work in this case study, please contact myHappymind founder Laura Earnshaw:

myHappymind operates independently, is a member of the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network, has been featured by the AHSN Network, and has been certified as a B Corp corporation.


  1. 1. Health Innovation Manchester Cost-Benefit Analysis, May 2023
  2. 2. Health Innovation Manchester Cost-Benefit Analysis, May 2023