BRITISH boxer Courtney Fry pulled no punches when it came to urging young people to look after the mental health.

The Commonwealth Games gold medallist and European silver medallist and Youth Sport Trust athlete mentor visited Smithills School to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and part of the Greater Manchester Mentally Healthy Schools and Colleges programme.

His visit was part of a programme, commissioned by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, to provide specialist mental health support for both pupils and teachers in 125 primary, secondary schools and colleges across Greater Manchester.

The athlete has been working with students to provide advice to help improve their confidence and reach their full potential.

Drawing on his own experiences of being bullied at school for being good at sport and competing at a high level, Fry has also been offering the students coaching in key life skills such as growing self-esteem, learning creative thinking skills and how to develop coping strategies for challenges.

One in eight young people aged five to 19 has at least one mental health disorder according to research from the NHS. Through workshops young people are being supported to build their confidence and reach their full potential.

The programme has already found that by helping young people to become Mental Health Champions, 88 per cent of primary pupils taking part said they can now recognise poor mental health in their peers.

School leadership teams have been trained in mental health first aid and schools have been give guidanc on how to work more effectively with children and young people experiencing mental health problems. The scheme has also provided a simpler, easier way to refer into Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

Fry said: “The programme really is making a difference to young people and I was pleased to see how the sessions encouraged students to open up. I take great pride in the part I play in motivating and inspiring young people to take up sport and promote positive mental health and wellbeing. Whilst at school, I would have loved the opportunity to meet someone who had competed at a high level. For me, it’s a great way of sharing my experiences and knowledge to educate and help others choose the right paths in life.”

Chloe Angus, Mental Health Lead said: "Our students have really benefitted from this project and the support we have received has been excellent. As a school, we feel we do a lot to support wellbeing already, but the extra training in mental health first aid and the student workshops have enhanced our provision. It is fantastic to see the links between mental health, sport and physical activity being made explicit too.”