Mental Health Children's Book

by andrew-samuels in Harrow Weald, England, United Kingdom

Mental Health Children's Book
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Unfortunately this project was not successful.

To facilitate and normalise children talking about feelings and emotions by providing emotional vocabulary and emotional intelligence.

by andrew-samuels in Harrow Weald, England, United Kingdom

Over the past four years I have been trying to understand mental health in an attempt to initially find "a cure" which I could be involved with administering.  Very soon I found it was the most important thing in the world and I continued to research and understand more.  I spent years working for mental health charities, getting trained in mental health first aid and awareness, completing a level 2 and 3 counselling skills, looking into alternative therapies, supporting service users and finding strategies to employ to help and assist individuals who are experiencing challenging times.  I have found a path and share strategies with service users and anyone else I meet from everywhere I go.  

I can share two most important things I have found;

1. Everyone has a degree of Mental Health 

2. There is no overnight fix.  i.e. The only way is through generations.

 If you are a human being you will have physical and mental health so this is relevant for all and the most significant motivation is to understand if we don't get a grip on this it is our children who will inherit the mess we leave for them.  Luckily, I have found a way which I am crowd funding for.

I decided to write a children's book about mental health.  The main character "Roxy" is the dog (pictured in the profile picture) which I inherited from my partner.  The stories are everyday experiences which anyone can empathise with.  and there is a definite strategy to the schools programme I have decided to create.

The book is written and the illustrations are still to come but the illustrator is working them now.  The deadline is the next half term around mid-October for publishing or at least having the chapters online as an audio book. 

Below is the document I have created as well as an extract from a chapter which I have already used to assist discussion with youth work.

Foreword - supporting document for the book - you will see how the book questions progress.

(scroll down for Chapter 1 - "Fish or chicken?")

Firstly it is important to state this book is not intended to be read alone by the child.  The purpose is for the adult to read to the child.  It is expected to be part of a schools’ programme where we have an activity for the children where they are asked to bring in a picture of their mum/dad/aunt/whoever is at home that would be able to read to them.  We will be providing t-shirts as part of an activity the children will be sticking images they have brought in, into the centre of the heart on the t-shirt.

The story is about Roxy the dog who is in fact a real dog, a miniature Jack Russell.  She is a very docile and friendly animal; she will be going to the school to promote the book also.  I expect her to show up in a school assembly where we can promote the book.  The intention is to give the book and T-shirts away for free.

The children will be presented the book and asked to get the person to read to them.  They will be asked to wear the T-shirts when they talk about the book and/or their day.  The book is not for children to read but for adults to read to the child as bedtime reading.  Through the stories, I hope to re-create moments where the child and adult can relate to and ultimately create the spark of realisation when they both, in the same moment, share the same perspective of “that’s what we did” or “that’s what happened to us”.

The book will be used to facilitate discussion about aspects of mental health and to provide emotional vocabulary and intelligence. The critical message we wish to convey is, “Feelings and emotions produce energy.  Managing these helps us to direct our energy where we want – good mental health is having that control over ourselves”.

When the children return to school the teacher would discuss the book and ask specific questions to tease out emotional responses from the children which allow them to explore the feelings and understand what mental health is.  The questions are structured in 3 stages.  1. Comprehension, 2. Comprehension of the scenario and 3. Exploring empathic understanding.

The chapters get longer and questions/answers become deeper.  The age of emotional intelligence is displayed as the kids interact at the higher chapters and stage 3 questions.

The breakdown of the chapters and outcomes with ideas for questions are in the table below.  Apart from the questions we can use props and role play to show how to illustrate the story, engage the children and facilitate the outcomes.  Good idea to give a couple of kids the glossary to read out the meaning to words as we discuss the story.

Chapters/Description of events/Outcome & Learning Experience

Introduction:  Characters, relationships and environment/Introducing characters.  Male and female animals.  

1. Fish or Chicken?

Shouting loudly and coming close to your face. Calling someone names and distress using verbal abuse. (Anger/Bully/Fear)


Distraction technique, manage yourself, kindness, calm.

Stage 1 Q’s:

1. How did the men feel when he realised the car driver was an old lady? 

2. What did Roxy learn from her experience?


Stage 2 Q’s:

3. Who finds it difficult to get out of bed in the morning? 

4. Do you know what abuse means? 


Stage 3 Q’s:

5. How do you feel when you see someone being angry? 

6. Is it different if they are a stranger? 

7.  what could you (or your friend) do if you are angry? 


a) Make them more angry 

b) Calm them down 

c) Leaving them alone 

d) You don't know

e) Run away 


8. Why do you think Roxy's mum doesn't when get out of bed? 

a) She is tired 

b) She is unwell 

c) Because of the weather 

d) Because she is thinking to fair ahead 


 Chapter 2. Where’s the tuna?
Seeing someone crying because of someone else and not knowing how to make it stop.  (Empathy)

Understanding, using empathy to disarm.

Stage 1 Q’s: 

1. Who likes Tuna sandwiches? 

2. why is Roxy's so upset? 


Stage 2 Q’s: 

3. How did Roxy feel when she saw her mum crying?

4. What do you do when you see someone crying? 

5. What would you like someone to do if you were crying? 


Stage 3 Q’s: 

6. Have ever felt someone mood change before they say anything? 

7. What have you noticed when the mood changes? 

(Show of hands) 


a) Facial expression (smiling, crying, look in the eyes,) faces turn red 

b) The movement changes e.g. hand shaking, looking around, can't keep still.

c) Sound goes silent 


8. Have you ever felt things are not going well? 

   (Show of hands) 


9. What helps you when you feel like that? 


a) Don’t feel bad because of one thing, there are other things are going okay 

b) Try to make things better 

c) Go to sleep - things will seem better when you walk up 

d) Talk to someone you know and trust 

e) Take care of your pet, if you have one e.g. take your dog for walk 

f) Watch a cartoon 


 Chapter 3. Wet paper, broken phone!

Throwing something in anger or frustration. Causing damage to property or accidentally to someone. (Anger) / Love, calm, weight of emotions 

Stage 1 Q’s: 

1. Why was Roxy’s dad, Ray, at home?

2. What did Roxy’s dad loose? (Hard Question)  A) “it - control”

3. What sounded like two musical note being played badly?


Stage 2 Q’s: 

2. Ray felt anxious, has anyone heard of the word anxiety?

    (Show of Hands)

3. Can anyone tell me what it means?

4. What does being in the moment mean? 

5. How can we be in the moment? – examples – paying attention to the now.


Stage 3 Q’s: 

1. What would you do if you saw someone had ‘lost it’ over something small 

– talk about distance and emotional highs and lows – making decision when in an emotional state.

2. Roxy’s dad shouted at Roxy.  How do you feel when someone shouts at you?

3. What do you do?

Chapter 4. Who’s hands are these hands?

Fight with family member (Domestic Violence, Anger) / Awareness, calm, silence, guilt

Stage 1 Q’s:

1. When Roxy’s dad was on the phone, what did he do to Jan as she was talking to him?

2. She was upset, what did she feel and what did she do? (A. offended, stunned, hurt, ignored, rejected, livid)


Stage 2 Q’s: 

3. Have you ever seen people distracted by being on the phone?  

4. How would you interrupt them if you needed to talk? 

5. What was the atmosphere like when Ray got off the phone (A. Silence, tense) If you were Jan, 6. what would you have done?


Stage 3 Q’s: 

7.How do you stop yourself from acting before thinking?

8. What would you do if you thought you were right but then realised you were wrong?

9. What happens to you if you don’t tell the truth? (Talk about guilty, bad feelings that can be avoided)


Chapter 5. The spider person

Violence in games – Adrenaline (Drugs) / The effect of drugs/chemicals, awareness.

Stage 1 Q’s: 

1. What game was Stephen playing? (A. Any game! – get answers from the group)

2. What are some of the things he had to do in the “game”?

3. What almost fell when they started to look for Stephen? (A. The table)

4. Where did Stephen hide?

5. How did Stephen start to feel as he was waiting for them? (Impatient and anxious)


Stage 2 Q’s: 

6. Does anyone know a game like Stephens?  Does it sound familiar?  

7. Has anyone got frustrated and been stuck on a game?

8. How long did you get stuck for?  (A. Filter to see who was there the longest and ask them what they did in the end) 

9. Have you heard of adrenaline?  Do you understand what it does? (A. To be in control of yourself rather than under control)


Stage 3 Q’s: 

10. Has anyone ever played a game and even after turning it off was still thinking about it?

11. What are the things you remember the most – asking for examples

12. Why do you remember these things?  (A. Brain chemistry (adrenaline) and the mind – explain what is it? 

13. (age dependant question) Does everyone have a mind?  Who knows how important it is – physical or mental – which is more important?


Chapter 6. The Dream

Reflection of the day and sleep.  A dream which motivates the dog to believe. / Belief, no limits, love/passion

Responses to these questions will determine the course of questions.  Sensitivity and caution required.


Stage 1 Q’s: 

1. What did Roxy do before bed?

2. What happened when Roxy started to dream?

3. Roxy was happy playing in her room bur when Roxy was sent to her room as a punishment, how did she feel? (isolated – discuss meaning)

4. What secret did Bel tell Roxy?  (A. “Yes, of course!  Just remember that when you want to do anything, you have to believe that you can, that’s the secret. In fact that’s critical”.)


Stage 2 Q’s: 

5. Have you ever had a dream about flying?  What was in your best dreams?  

6. Do you have a safe place? (A. Everyone should have a place – home/room/?)

7. Has any of these things in Roxy’s dream happened in your dreams?  (A. There are positive and negative images in dreams – basic dream analysis – awareness of individuals the group)

8. The “monster” (Bel) didn’t have any friends, how did she feel? (A. Lonely and Miserable)?

9. What does that feel like – (discuss meanings)

10. What did Roxy feel at the lake.  (A. Peace – what is that? – safe place!)

11. Roxy was like a bird in the dream, what does it feel like to be free?  What is freedom?


Stage 3 Q’s:

12. What can you do when you are feeling down?  (A. Talk to someone, Music, Art, etc)

  • Elaborate: Keeping feelings to yourself can be harmful.  Letting them out is ok, we do it all the time with art. (eg. Listen to the Blues for Sadness, talking allows us to acknowledge the feelings and stay well.


13.  What is belief? (A. Belief example – The long Jumper story)


14. How do you motivate yourself?  group discussion


Motivational quotes from famous people (Real people who have shown us way)

Belief - Mohammed Ali

No limits – Bruce Lee

Love as a motivating force – Messi (10)


Bonus for extra vigilant students: Flow States for performance

 This is positive mental health – be in control of your mind not your mind in control of you.



The chapters should elaborate using ‘undertones’ of behaviours common with mental health - sleeping, worry/anxiety, depression and anger.  All chapters have an emotional crescendo and settle with a happy ending.  I have tried to be careful to leave the reader and/or child with positive thoughts with which to process.

I decided to keep the chapters short and use the dream to inspire and empower the reader/listener using Roxy’s dream sequence.

------------------- BEGIN CHAPTER 1 - "FISH OF CHICKEN?" --------------------------

Now and then Roxy would go shopping with Jan, her mum, to buy food for dinner. Her mum was a great cook but didn't always feel like cooking from scratch. Usually, if there was food in the freezer mum would avoid cooking and just put it in the oven. But when mum was going to 'really' cook, Roxy was grateful and loved to go with her to the shops. Jan, Roxy's mum would feel happy and excited to be cooking. She never was as enthusiastic when mum made oven food. 

First they would go to the green grocer who sold fruit and vegetables. George, the grocer, was always very welcoming and pleased to see them. He always gave Roxy a banana for helping her mum. Then they would walk past the fish monger, Fred, to see the fish. There were all different types of seafood from all over the world. Apart from the fish, Fred had crabs, squid and octopus but mum never bought them because she wasn't really sure how to cook them. Roxy and Jan never stayed very long because of fishy smell. It revolted Roxy and Jan said she didn't want to smell like a fish. If Jan didn't buy any fish, they would go to Bob the butcher to buy some meat. That was Roxy's favourite food, Roxy loved chicken. Probably because mummy made the best chicken curry ever. You see, no-one cooks better than Roxy's mum (except my mum!). 

One cloudy, rainy day Roxy’s mum said, "we're going to cook today". Sometimes Jan found it difficult to get out of bed and Roxy used to think it was because of the weather. It didn't seem to make any difference if it was sunny or raining. On really bad days she would feel depressed or hopeless and not energetic at all. It didn't even matter if Ray, Roxy's dad made her tea in the morning or if Roxy gave her a big kiss or plenty of hugs. It was a lucky dip but whatever the reason, today mum was good and felt confident and optimistic. 

So after getting her wellies and raincoat on, Roxy and Jan went to the George the grocer and, as he always does, George gave Roxy a banana. Then they went to Fred the fish monger and looked at the squid and then to Bob the butcher, it was very busy. It was a dark, cloudy day and it was raining heavily. Everyone had umbrellas and there were puddles along the footpath. Even though it was raining, it wasn't windy. Roxy hated it when it was raining and windy, it was awful. She only liked the wind on a hot day. Rain and wind are her worst favourite weather. 

As they crossed the road to get to the butchers, all of a sudden, Roxy heard the loud sound of a car horn, then there was a screeeech and a loud BANG! Roxy was startled. Behind them there was a car accident. The rain was beating down hard and it was difficult to see what was happening. Jan said, "Oh dear! I hope no-one is hurt". She held Roxy tight and pulled her along up to the Bob the butcher’s shop window where there was some cover from the rain. Roxy and Jan could see everything happening in front of them. A small car in front was hit from behind by a lorry. There was an old lady in the car and she looked stunned, she was in shock. 

There was a red builders’ lorry behind which had bumped into the smaller car and the driver and workmen inside all looked very angry. They were pointing at the car in front shouting and the driver was so mad he had both hands up with the palms of his hands facing him, shouting at the car driver in front. He quickly started to get out of the lorry and jumped down from the cabin and within a few seconds he was approaching the driver of the car in front. He was a large man with barrel of a belly with dusty, now wet and dusty, work clothes as if he was from a building site. He was shouting all the way to the car and moved so quickly his belly bounced up and down like it was full of rubber. 

The rain was still beating down hard as he got to the door and when he reached the driver's door, he banged on the window in anger at the driver. The driver was hesitant and didn’t do anything so he pulled the door open but he didn't know it was an old lady. He put his face into the car right up to the driver and shouted, "What do you think you are doing driving like that in this weather?". The woman was so scared she couldn't talk, she couldn't even mumble. The shock had confused her and her fear had frozen her. Suddenly the man stopped for a minute as his senses hit him. 

There was a pause as he stopped thinking about how he was feeling and realised what was happening to her. He could see she was scared, in shock and looked vulnerable so then he realised what was happening to her. He was furious and aggressive before but now felt compassion and felt a little embarrassed. He calmed down and asked her if she was ok. She looked at him sheepishly and worried and said, "I don't know". He knelt down, the rain was beating down on him and he was getting soaked. He said to her calmly, "it's OK love, don't worry. No-one is hurt but are YOU ok?". In that moment she looked into his kind eyes and was able to talk. "I'm so sorry!", she said. "I really didn't see how close you were and I thought there was something in the road ahead". The man said, "It's OK love. Take a breath and then tell me if you are OK. That's all that matters right now". The woman felt timid but she was ok. 

Mummy and Roxy watched everything that happened and were relieved that everyone was ok. Roxy saw how someone can seem so crazy with anger it would scare other people. But she also learnt that person can also be so kind and caring also. She was pleased to see how people can change once they change what they focus on. Roxy knew, there were times when her family or friends seemed angry. Roxy was smart and felt inspired. She was going to try an experiment when someone seemed angry! Then Jan turned around holding Roxy, walked into the butcher’s shop and bought some chicken for dinner. Roxy felt pleased and thought to herself, "whoopee...chicken curry for dinner...yeah!"

------------------- END CHAPTER 1 - "FISH OF CHICKEN?" --------------------------


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