How Books Talk About Mental Health
Statistics show year on year that more and more children are struggling with their mental health. Whether this is due to a rise in mental illnesses or simply that we are getting better at spotting it, there is something that education professionals have always known – mental health and positive outcomes for our children’s educations are inextricably linked. Simply put, children who are suffering just cannot free up the energy to learn – they are using it all merely surviving.
We can all learn more when it comes to talking about our mental health, and that of the students in our charge. We need to make the way we approach mental health as symbiotic to our educational success – with safety and happiness at the heart of the learning experience. But where does that place teachers? Many teachers are not trained in mental health support, and it can be daunting when this responsibility falls to us. Building an effective toolkit to support both yourself and your students is vital – and we believe that books can form an important and valuable part of that.
Obviously we’re starting here. We’re a little bit biased, after all. But we know that the right book can be the magic key you need to unlock a student’s potential mental health success. Older children can respond to novels featuring characters with similar experiences, role-modelling model solutions and the emotions along the way – and never underestimate the power of realising you’re not the only one.
Silly Billy by Anthony Browne looks at worries as the titular Billy’s Grandma offers him a set of worry dolls to help him cope. This is a gently and sensitive approach is Anthony Browne’s hallmark, and Silly Billy is just one of the lovely books in our Anthony Browne Collection.
Fiction may be magical but non-fiction has some tricks up it’s sleeve too. Books can provide a familiar, safe place to seek information for a scared or curious child. In a world where the internet can turn up all sorts of points of view, the school library forms a safe space where children know they can safely seek answers in a way that is intended for them. The PSHE range over at BookLife Publishing covers a wide array of subjects and they are all perfectly levelled and age-appropriate. Handing a shy child the right book can be pretty a pretty neat trick too. A selection of top titles at your fingertips can be a powerful tool in helping a student who is simply unable to talk. Yet.
BookLife Publishing were proud to work with leading children’s mental health charity Place2Be on this beautiful series Healthy Minds. Available at EYFS, KS1 and KS2 levels, the series looks at emotions and mental health, using engaging stories and gorgeous original illustrations to help you start important conversations. They are designed to be used with a pupil and an adult, or for a child to dip into alone.
Longer form fiction has a unique ability to speak to older readers. When they choose to give something so much of their attention, it can seep into the psyche in a way that the fast-consumed multi-media just cannot. Characters can be seen coping with, damaging or protecting their own mental health, and the gains and consequences of their choices can play out in a way that is safe for tweens and adolescents to explore. Story can also use the tricks in it’s box to help us explore our feelings – from powerful metaphors to hopeful symbols, young readers can draw emotional experiences from characters that last a lifetime.
Even in the inimitable Harry Potter series, JK Rowling battles with mental health. It is often said that her haunting Dementors that torment Harry are based on her own experiences of depression. With their joy-sucking qualities and ability to imprison people “inside their own heads”, we can see the comparison. Seeing Harry battle and defeat these joyless creatures might speak to a child struggling with similar feelings.
More Mental Health Books
There are many mental health books out there. Whether you notice a child at school is stressed, anxious, sad or depressed there is a book out there that can help. Below are just a few we recommend.
Key Stage 1 (Ages 5 - 7)
The Lonely Giant by Sophie Ambrose
Giraffe Problems by Jory John
How Do you Feel? by Anthony Browne
Robin The Rabbit by Holly Duhig
Key Stage 2 (Ages 7 - 11)
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Siobhan Curham
The Song From Elsewhere by A.F. Harrold
Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Siobhan Curham
You're A Star by Poppy O'Neill
Key Stage 2+ (Ages 11 - 14)
Blame My Brain by Nicola Morgan
Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson
The Teenage Guide To Stress by Nicola Morgan
Bullies, Cyberbullies and Frenemies by Michele Elliott
You can view all of our Mental Health books in our PSHE section by clicking the link below.