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BReal: Building stress resilience in early adolescents' lives (2020-2024)

This project focuses on developing evidence-based resources for schools to use to improve young people’s resilience, with the aim of learning skills to be able to cope with everyday challenges. 

BReal aims to engage young teenagers and equip them with the knowledge and practical skills to drive their own brain development in a positive direction that promotes good mental health. The project will inform, inspire and empower teenagers to cultivate stress resilience skills and thus enable them to better manage their own minds.

To achieve this goal, we are collaborating with PSHE teachers and young people to develop a three-lesson program of stress resilience skills development, firmly grounded in both neuroscience research and practical skills-based coping techniques, to be delivered in schools to Years 7-9. 

Project logo. Wave, brain, and letters 'BREAL'.

Project team

Jacinta O'Shea

MaryAnn Noonan

Polly Waite

Margot Overman

Louise Aukland

Carinne Piekema

Hanna Smyth


December 2022 - the project's External Advisory Board has had its first meeting. Members are Anne-Marie Burn, Tim DalgleishMina Fazel, and Jo Lindholm

October 2022 - Revised versions of the lessons (updated in accordance with teacher feedback from the summer) have gone out to schools for piloting. Between now and December, teachers will trial these lessons and students and teachers will submit feedback questionnaires to shape the lessons further. 

June 2022 - All three lessons have been developed in draft form, and are currently undergoing a pre-pilot phase via written feedback from secondary school teachers. 

January 2022 - This project has now restarted, with a newly extended end date of 30 April 2024. 

September 2021 to January 2022 - This project has been paused while a new Public Engagement Officer is recruited to succeed Maria Larriva-Hormigos in post. 

July 2020 - A team led by Jacinta O'Shea (Psychiatry), with colleagues Polly Waite and MaryAnn Noonan (Experimental Psychology) and Carinne Piekema and Maria Larriva-Hormigos (WIN public engagement team), has won a University of Oxford 'Enriching Engagement' grant funding award. 'Enriching Engagement' is a pilot grants programme open to Wellcome grant holders at Oxford, to develop and deliver public engagement with research projects. Jacinta's team was awarded £72,256 for their project 'Building stress resilience in early adolescence', to co-create with schools a stress resilience skills toolkit for Years 7-9. The project will run 1 December 2020 - 30 November 2023. 


BReal is funded by a £72,256 public engagement grant from Wellcome via the University of Oxford's Enriching Engagement scheme.