Exmouth: How the Co-op is supporting mental wellbeing in local schools

In Exmouth, the Co-op is supporting the mental wellbeing of the local community by providing vital funds to local cause ‘HeadsUP’, a community interest company offering free mental health awareness sessions to local schools and youth groups.

The pandemic has affected the mental health of millions, and World Mental Health Day in October helped raise awareness of mental health issues across the globe.

What is HeadsUP?

HeadsUP has been operating in Exmouth since 2019. Its founder, Paula Baker, set it up to allow schoolchildren to talk about how they were feeling and intervene early to relieve pressure on NHS services.

She said: “We are all about prevention and early intervention on mental health issues.

"We bring mental health awareness sessions to schools in the area, about how to look after your mental health and what mental health is, but we also do more specific ones like building resilience, dealing with anger, building self-confidence and self-esteem.

“We make sure that they understand that being worried about stuff is perfectly normal. Our job is to equip them so they can cope with situations rather than it getting out of hand."

HeadsUP Founder Paula Baker delivering a session in a local school

HeadsUP provides whole-class, small-group, and one-to-one sessions in local schools. It also focuses particularly on the transition from Year Six to secondary school, and trains students to be ‘mental health ambassadors’ to run their own sessions.

How is the Co-op supporting HeadsUP?

Money provided by the Co-op’s Local Community Fund has enabled HeadsUP to add another member to its staff.

Paula added: “[Our new staff member] is a sports coach and so she's going to incorporate sports and mental health. We've got quite a few boys I work with one-to-one who really struggle with talking about their mental health, so we're going to try and build their confidence and self-esteem through sporting skills and exercise.”

Exmouth Co-op Member Pioneer Paul Millar said: "HeadsUp has been selected for the second year in a row to be a local cause due to how important its service is during these times.

“As a local person myself, I wish such an organisation had existed when I was growing up.

“This money from the local community and Co-op really does make a huge difference to these local charities being able to deliver these services that often schools aren't able to fund or provide.

"Every Co-op member selects one of three causes they want to support, and that cause will then get money each time the member spends money on selected Co-op products and services.

“Exmouth has the second biggest secondary school in the country. The more Exmouth people that join Co-op as members – it's not a loyalty card, it's a genuine membership scheme that supports local causes and local community projects – the more members we have, the more money goes to HeadsUp, so they can begin to meet the demand even more."

One in four of us experience a mental health problem in any one year. That’s someone in every family, workplace and friendship circle. In the UK it's around 14 million people. That's why Co-op is working in partnership with Mind, the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and Inspire to bring communities together to support mental wellbeing.

To help you look after and find support for your and others’ mental wellbeing, the Co-op has created Be Kind To Your Mind. It includes activities from Co-op and its partners as well as general tips and how to seek support from its charity partners, Mind, SAMH and Inspire.


If you need support with your mental health or know someone that does, the following can help:
• contact Mind for support in England and Wales on 0300 123 3393 (lines open 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday), text: 86463 or email [email protected]
• text SHOUT for support anywhere on 85258

Co-op membership helps support Co-op’s national charity partners and Local Community Fund causes. When you buy selected Co-op branded products and services, 2p for every pound spent goes to you and Co-op gives the same to local communities. See www.coop.co.uk/membership

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