Talking about Mental Health: Holly Duhig and Healthy Minds
This week, we’ve asked our author Holly Duhig to write us a blog, talking about our beautiful and important new series Healthy Minds. Holly, along with John Wood, has developed an innovative series of books for discussing emotions and mental health with children. Take it away, Holly…
Writing a series of books on the topic of mental health for children was something I jumped at the opportunity to do. Advocating for talking openly about our emotions, especially the more difficult and complex ones, is very important to me. As someone who was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder at a very young age, it is of special significance to me that children who are given a certain diagnosis have the resources to learn about what that means and the ways in which they can manage their condition. No child should feel they have to hide their condition or keep their treatment a secret.
The series, which is called Healthy Minds, has been written with the help and support of the leading UK children’s mental health charity, Place2Be. In November this year, I went to London to meet with CEO of Place2Be Catherine Roche. Catherine and her clinical team kindly lent their expertise and have reviewed and approved the content of these books from conception and initial illustrations, all the way through to the final products.
And what final products they are! Danielle Jones and Drue Rintoul’s beautiful and unique illustrations give the early years and key stage one fiction books totally distinct personalities and bring our character-based stories to life.
Our aim for these books was that each level would add a new layer of sophistication to the topic of mental health. Our early years titles introduce children to common - but sometimes difficult - emotions using heartwarming characters such as Freddie the Fox and Harry the Hamster.
At key stage one, our characters become more of a metaphor for common mental illnesses (children will learn to train their anxious rabbit or their angry bear).
At key stage two, our non-fiction titles discuss common mental health conditions in detail and make use of case studies with the hope that children affected by these conditions will realise they are not alone.
The books are designed to be used in discussion with teachers and school counsellors as well as a teaching tool for some areas of the PHSE curriculum. But mostly, we hope that any child suffering from mental health problems will have access to accurate, stigma-free and up-to-date information on the things they are going through.
I’m happy to say that, since the first few titles have been published, they’ve had plenty of interest. Last week I was asked to talk about the books on local radio station KLFM (a slightly nerve-wracking experience as – contrary to what my friends and colleagues would tell you – I don’t actually like the sound of my own voice!) However, it was actually really fun to talk about the labour of love that was this series and I truly hope they can reach as many people as possible.
Children's Writer and Editor