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Cornell Praises HeadStart’s Positive Impact

24 March 2023

Preston North End goalkeeper Dai Cornell has praised the positive impact of Preston North End Community and Education Trust's [PNECET] mental health support programme HeadStart, having recently taken part in a session with pupils at Grange Primary School.

The Welshman took time out of his training schedule to meet the participants, who showcased the work they had produced around managing mental health in a positive way and some of the key lessons learned from listening in class to PNECET Mental Health Transformation Officer, Mary Hewitt.

Cornell answered a wide variety of questions related to his own mental health and football career, before signing autographs and appearing in pictures.

Being delivered in partnership with the EFL Trust, HeadStart is a two-year project which aims to support the mental health of year 6 children that are transitioning into secondary school.

Dai said: “It was really good to talk with the children about their mental health, how they can better understand it and help themselves and their classmates moving forward.

"It is a really important topic as everyone deals with mental health in one way or another.

"There were some very interesting questions in terms of how I deal with my emotions after a game or if things aren’t going my way during a match. So, I put across the way I deal with things personally and the strategies I use and how it’s so important to talk.

"This is the first time I’ve been to a community project connected to mental health. With social media and the online world, it is so important that kids understand their emotions and how they deal with different types of emotions, especially with them moving up to secondary school soon.

"When they do, they’ll be in a really good place to understand how they are feeling after this workshop.

“The more type of programmes that happen like HeadStart, the better.”

Emily, a pupil at Grange Primary School and HeadStart participant, said: “When I showed Dai the artwork I had created in class, he said he really liked it and specifically the quote I put on there which was ‘Love yourself’.

“It was really inspiring to meet a Preston North End player and the fact he came to our school makes me so happy!

"From doing HeadStart, we have learnt to accept ourselves for us and Mary has helped us grow our confidence.

"We’ve also learnt how to stay calm with breathing techniques and we’ve been given lots of exercises that we can do before bedtime, to relax and be able to sleep better.”

For more information about our Headstart delivery, please click here or get in contact with PNECET's Head of Health and Wellbeing, Jessica Riley, on

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