MINDFULNESS and mental health awareness classes have started in Warrington to help thousands of children.

Birchwood High School, which has around 1,000 students, is one of 90 schools in the town enrolled in the scheme which will train teachers and students in mindfulness.

The idea for the scheme has come from the Peace in Mind campaign, set up by Esther Ghey, mum of Brianna, and the Warrington Guardian last year.

It followed the horrific murder of former Birchwood High student, Brianna, last February.

Mindfulness is a cognitive skill which can help people build mental resilience and anxiety by helping people be present and aware of their mind, body and surroundings.

“It promotes kindness, and it allows people to have an awareness of how they feel in that time at that moment,” said Russell Treasure, who runs the mindfulness classes at Birchwood High School, as well across Warrington.

“Hopefully this is the beginning of mindfulness becoming standard practice in schools.”

Since September last year, 20 teachers at the school have taken the classes at the school with more due to begin in the coming months.

The scheme also extends to the students, as the high school held a mindfulness session for the entire school in December.

Now, students in every year group are taught mindfulness at the school in 'Talk Time'.

“I think sometimes when people think of mindfulness they think it’s quite airy fairy, but actually our mental health is such a huge part of our overall health and being able to deal with negative things is such an important part of being happy and healthy,” said Emma Mills, head teacher at the Brock Road school.

“In the busy world we live in, I think everybody needs to be aware of how to look after their mental health and the younger we can teach that to children the better, so that they’re going into life with that skill already and hopefully that will lead to happier and healthier futures for them all.”

While the mindfulness sessions mainly focus on students at High School, Emma hopes that the classes and techniques can be passed on to children as young as primary school age as the project develops.

“I’ve started mindfulness practice now in my 40s, so it’s not that it’s too late when they’re older but I think the younger they are the better,” she said.

“Being able to see the amount of schools that have signed up in Warrington already shows you that everybody is getting involved, and we’re just really thankful.”

The idea for the sessions stemmed from the successful fundraising campaign, Peace in Mind.

While Birchwood High School's mindfulness classes have been funded nearly entirely by One Community Trust, the Peace in Mind GoFundMe has raised over £86,000 so far to help extend the scheme to as many schools in Warrington as possible.

“I’m constantly amazed by the community in Warrington,” said Esther.

“The donations and kind words of support from Warrington and beyond mean such a lot to me personally, but I also think that it shows that others agree that there is a need for better mental health support in the way of prevention.”

Currently, the mindfulness classes are only taking place in schools in Warrington, but Esther hopes that the training will eventually take place across the country.

“I believe that if we improve resilience and empathy in our young people, this won’t only improve our schools – but society too,” she said.