“IT’S about understanding mental health” - that was the message from singer and reality TV star Kerry Katona to Bolton’s young people.

In a powerful speech to teenagers from St Joseph’s High School, Horwich, the former Atomic Kitten member recounted her experiences growing up and her battles with addiction in an effort to help students who may find themselves in tough situations.

Katona joined Liam McBride and Mark Murray from Whysup - the two men are former students from Thornleigh College who went through their own addiction struggles and visit schools to share their stories.

“People don’t understand mental health, they are not educated enough on it,” said Katona, 38. “ I think in today’s society it needs to be in schools as soon as possible, we’re teaching them geography and history but we’re not teaching them these important things.”

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She explained the link between mental health and addiction and spoke about her struggles with drugs, beginning at a young age.

She added: “I’m here to help other people, especially teenagers, understand mental health, depression, addiction - anything like that. It doesn’t matter who you are, your age, your sex, your race, depression and addiction can grab you at any time but now, today can change your tomorrow.”

Mr McBride and Mr Murray, who presented the special assembly at St Joseph’s, spoke to the students about their own problems, with drugs and gambling respectively, which had developed during school age.

They echoed Katona’s thoughts, explaining the importance of bringing these messages into schools.

Mr Murray told the children about his promising football career which had faltered after he had a child at 15 before issues with gambling and loans began to take over his life.

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He said: “It all started in our younger years. You’re making decisions now which will make a difference for the rest of your life.”

“We got to a point of crisis before we ever reached out, don’t do that.”

Mr McBride added: “I think at this sort of age, kids are setting boundaries and they’re going to make decisions which will impact the road they go down. This is the age where we can have the most impact because behaviours aren’t set in stone.”

He encouraged the students to take a step back each day and think of three things to be grateful for, as well as taking five minutes to meditate.

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After the assembly Year 9 student Helena Flanagan and teacher Stacey Rushton presented flowers to Katona outside the school.