Children will learn how to “Smile” for life thanks to an innovative mental health project run by a borough mum.
Gemma Heaton, the mind behind the successful positive-thinking programme Reset: The Happiness Project, will bring mental health to the forefront for children across Wigan.
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The mum-of-two from Hindley says she is “over the moon” after receiving funding from Wigan Council to bring Smile into community centres and schools.
The programme, which follows the same principles as the Reset project, which has helped adults with anxiety and depression across the globe, has been tailored for children by children.
Gemma, 35, said it is her “dream come true” to help children who may otherwise struggle with their issues.
“Smile is all about the issues they want to talk about,” she said.
“Children often face pressures, pressures at home, pressures at school, cyber-bullying and breaks up in the family.
“We will be dealing with all of these but in a really positive way.
“Smile was designed by the kids themselves, a lot of them got interested because their parents have been doing Reset - which is a way of life - so they will have seen their parents doing it and then wanted to be involved.”
Smile, which stands for special, motivate, inspire, love and educate, uses the same idea of positive journaling and aspirational thinking.
Those taking part are asked to list positive attributes they have, goals they wish to achieve and anything they feel grateful for in their lives.
Gemma, who has two children - Summer, 10, and Ari, seven - said she believes children deserve to have that belief in themselves.
“We try to tell the kids that they can be anything they want,” she said. “And there is a superhero theme.
“They are all wonder kids with their own powers.
“It’s really important that children have this mindset when they are young because then you don’t have to 'reset' anything - they just carry that positive-thinking with them as they grow older.
“That way of life, that thought process will already be there for them.”
With the town hall grant, Gemma will be able to roll the programme out into community centres at weekends and during the holidays for children to take part.
There will also be a focus on developing the Smile books, which take the same format as a Reset journal but in a child-friendly way.
“It really is a dream come true to be doing this,” she said. “It’s amazing to be able to touch the lives of so many children.
“Now we will be able to reach even more children and focus on those who need extra help too.”
Borough schools have also become interested in the programme and some have arranged for the Smile group to run sessions.
Coun Chris Ready, cabinet member for communities at Wigan Council, said: “There are some fantastic community projects like the Reset the Happiness Project and Smile for Children that are making a difference to so many people thank to support from the Deal for Communities Investment Fund.
“It is such a rewarding part of my role to hear about all the amazing work happening across the borough and the pride that people take in making it a happier place for others.
“Helping young people understand their own and others’ mental health and providing them with skills they can carry throughout their lives is a fantastic way to invest this money and is an example to the rest of the borough.
“Unlike many other authorities who have withdrawn funding, we recognise the importance of investing in our communities and the transformative role they can play in improving people’s life chances.
“This is why we launched The Deal and we are looking forward to seeing how our continuing investment will blossom.”
Sessions will take place at Hindley Library and community centre.