BBC Children in Need launches The Heaviest Backpack campaign – are children carrying too much?

BBC Children in Need launches The Heaviest Backpack campaign – are children carrying too much?
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By Jill Dando News

BBC Children in Need have launched The Heaviest Backpack campaign – are children carrying too much?

They want to highlight that the issues facing children and young people across the UK are growing, with 1 in 5 children now facing a mental health issue.

The campaign aims to open up a nationwide conversation around the importance of positive relationships in protecting children’s mental health.

It offers free resources to support the right conversations between children and parents, carers and other trusted adults to ensure no child faces their emotional and mental health challenges alone.

As part of the campaign, BBC Children in Need has released the findings of a new Censuswide survey.

This sheds light that over a quarter (27%) of children and young people surveyed regularly feel anxious and worried with more than four in ten children and young people surveyed (44%) comparing the weight of the worries they carry to books, whilst (16%) compared the weight to bricks.

The UK wide survey commissioned by BBC Children in Need of 2,512 parents4 and 2,512 children and young people5 aged 11-18, also reveals that:

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• The top five reasons behind the worries children and young people surveyed were:

  1. Doing well at school/college/university or other educational institution – 37%
  2. Losing someone they love – 30%
  3. Their appearance/body image – 30%
  4. Achieving their goals – 27%
  5. Fitting in – 27%

BBC Children in Need’s Chief Executive Simon Antrobus said: “Our research indicates that far too many children and young people are facing considerable challenges that can weigh heavy on them.

“We know that if children have positive relationships that can support them through these challenges, then it can help to prevent more serious mental health issues from emerging.

“Our brilliant project workers - like Dylan from ReflecTeen who features in our Backpack film – create these positive relationships that open up early vital conversations which can have a transformative effect on wellbeing, helping young people to better understand and tackle any barriers they face.

“That’s why we are today asking everyone to help make life lighter for those children who are carrying too much by visiting our website, making use of the resources we have created, and simply starting a conversation and letting children and young people across the UK know that we are there for them.”

To support the campaign, Vick Hope, Roman Kemp, Jamie Laing, Alex Scott MBE, Katie Thistleton and Joe Wicks MBE have shared personal reflections from their childhoods and unpacked their own backpacks in a series of powerful films.

From discussions about bullying, anxiety, racism and issues at home, each film demonstrates the importance of positive relationships in childhood and the power of conversations in helping lighten the weight that some children carry.

As part of the series, The One Show’s Roman Kemp - whose Challenge Squad raised £3.3m for the charity in 2023 - has powerfully opened up about the weights he carried during his teenage years: “I carried them always, like a cloud over me.” 

BBC Children in Need partners have also thrown their support behind the campaign, including McDonald’s UK who have, for the first time ever, removed the iconic smile from millions of its Happy Meal® boxes in restaurants across the country.

The move aims to communicate to children it is okay not to be happy all the time and help spark family conversations about emotions with all limited edition boxes linking via a QR code to BBC Children in Need’s mental wellbeing hub over the course of Mental Health Awareness Week.

BBC Children in Need is funding over 470 projects across the UK which supports children and young people with their emotional wellbeing and mental health to the value of £30.5m.

These projects provide positive relationships, creating trusting and safe connections between children and the important people in their lives; which help them to overcome barriers and can prevent more serious mental health issues from emerging.

To further cement the charity’s commitment to funding initiatives supporting early intervention and children’s mental wellbeing, in October 2023 BBC Children in Need began a nationwide search, with the support of Ambassador for Mental Health Dr Alex George, for the winners of the first A Million & Me Award. It was looking to spot innovators developing creative, scalable and tangible mental health solutions.

Together with our partners Health Foundation and Impact on Urban Health, BBC Children in Need have today announced The Children’s Society as the winner of the £1million award.

To find out more about The Heaviest Backpack, and to access resources to start a conversation, or to access signposting to local and national organisations supporting children’s mental wellbeing visit

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