Teaching children about mental illness

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We know that mental illness now affects 1 in 4 people, during this week there has been more alarming figures and information about how mental health services in the UK are not adequately helping individuals who need it. Many of the children we work with will have family members who have a mental illness but do we talk to children about this?. In my experience we don’t, as professionals we feel awkward, uncomfortable, we often can’t find the words to explain to children about mental illness. Families also can find this hard; it is difficult to explain mental illness to a child. But if we don’t explain things to children, they will make up their stories, fill in the gaps, and the stories they use to fill in the gaps can often be worse than the real story.

Bipolar is one of those mental illnesses that can be hard to explain, I know this from my experience, as I grew up with a mum who had Bipolar, I knew she was ill, but I didn’t know what her illness was until I was 14 and sat in an assembly run by Mind. The story I told myself was that she was dying and then later I heard of cancer and presumed she must have that. Realising through the assembly that she was mentally ill and that she wasn’t dying, was a lightbulb moment.

I work with young children, and I knew there were no books available, for young children, explaining Bipolar, so from my experience of my mum, from working with families and many children, I decided to write a book.The book has been illustrated by a very talented illustrator Jon Birch.

Bipolar disorder affects thousands of people in the UK, and many of them are parents. Sophie and Katie’s Mummy is one of them. The story describes some of the highs and lows of having a Mummy with Bipolar from a child’s perspective, it is a gentle and thought provoking story of family life.

The book is for families, schools, children centres, nurseries, libraries, mental health units and GP practices to use as a resource to support children and families affected by Bipolar. For children and parents to be able to sit together and read the storybook and then be able to talk about the subject.

To order a copy go to my website

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