Zippy’s Friends

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Overview

Zippy’s Friends is a school based mental health promotion programme for five to seven year old children. The programme aims to prevent the development of serious psychosocial problems later in life, including suicidal behaviour, through expanding children’s range of effective coping skills. It is designed to help all children, not just those who have difficulties or who are considered to be at risk. Zippy’s Friends usually runs for 24 weeks, with one 45-minute session each week. The program is built around a set of six stories. Zippy is a stick insect and his friends are a group of young children, and the stories show them confronting issues that are familiar to young children – friendship, communication, feeling lonely, bullying, dealing with change and loss, and making a new start.

Zippy’s Friends was developed and tested in the contrasting settings of Denmark and Lithuania. The program was found to have positive impacts on coping strategies, improved social skills (cooperation, empathy, assertion and self-control). One study also found significant decreases in externalizing behaviours. A large randomized controlled trial in Ireland replicated these findings and the first quasi-experimental trail in North American, testing a French version of Zippy’s Friends, found positive impacts on internalizing behaviours, improved cooperation, autonomy and perceived social support.

Primary Source Document

Bale C, Mishara B, Developing an international mental health promotion programme for young children. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion; 6(2): 12-16

Contact information of developer(s) and/or implementer(s)

Developer: Befrienders Worldwide (formally Befrienders International)

Implementer: Partnership for Children

26-27 Market Place

Kingston upon Thames

Surrey KT1 1JH

England

Telephone: 00 44(0) 20 8974 6004

Email: info@partnershipforchildren.org.uk

Intervention Focus

Intervention Goal / ObjectiveLevel(s) TargetedEquity Focus
Increase children’s capacity to cope with everyday difficulties, helping them to explore, find their own solutions and expand their range of coping strategies.
  • Individual level
People living in conditions of disadvantage are not explicitly stated to be a target population of the intervention.
Enable children to identify and talk about feelings.
  • Individual level
People living in conditions of disadvantage are not explicitly stated to be a target population of the intervention.
Encourage children to help others with their problems and to ask for and use help when they are in need.
  • Individual level
  • Interpersonal level
People living in conditions of disadvantage are not explicitly stated to be a target population of the intervention.

Health Issue(s) that is/are addressed by the Intervention

Health Promotion

  • Mental Health

Risk Reduction

  • Prevent suicide

Specific Activities of the Intervention

  • Curriculum changes in school

Priority/Target Population for Intervention Delivery

Life Stage

  • Early childhood (age 3-5 years)
  • Children (age 6-12 years)

Settings

Educational Settings

  • Elementary school

Community Setting

  • Home

Outcomes

Outcomes and Impact Chart
Level of ImpactDescription of OutcomeEquity Focus
Individual LevelChildren’s academic skills, as assessed by the teachers, were significantly improved (Cohen’s d: 0.415).Reported outcomes do not distinguish findings specific to people living in conditions of disadvantage.
Interpersonal LevelTeachers reported a significant improvement in social climate (Cohen’s d: 0.614) compared with classes that did not participate in the program.Reported outcomes do not distinguish findings specific to people living in conditions of disadvantage.
Interpersonal LevelTeachers reported a significant moderate reduction in bullying (Cohen’s d: 0.550) compared with classes that did not participate in the program.Reported outcomes do not distinguish findings specific to people living in conditions of disadvantage.

Adaptability

Implementation History

  • Multiple implementations - Different settings/populations/providers - The intervention showed significant adaptability as it has been implemented in different settings or with different populations or by different provider(s). This can include multiple implementations during the same time period. Each implementation of the intervention must have been substantially the same and must have demonstrated positive results for the primary objectives of the intervention.

Expertise Required for Implementation within the Context of the Intervention

  • Specialized skills training provided as part of the Intervention - The intervention does not require individuals or groups with highly specialized training, but requires that individuals or groups be trained as part of the implementation of the intervention.

Are there supports available for implementation

Yes.

Standardized training for teachers includes skill practice and classroom observation, with accompanying PowerPoint presentations for the individual modules. Train-the-trainer events and international workshops are also available. On-site consultation is available during the first year of implementation, and phone and email support can be requested beyond the first year.

Typically, a partner organisation takes on the licence to run Zippy’s Friends in a given area. The partner organisation appoints a coordinator to liaise with participating schools and to arrange training and support meetings for teachers. Partnership for Children provides the initial training course and, optionally, runs the first year’s support meetings. Thereafter most partners feel able to run and promote the programme in their area, and organise subsequent training courses for new teachers themselves.

Are there resources and/or products associated with the interventions

Yes. Manualized lesson plans for teachers; guide for parents; books for children.