New book helps children to learn about mental illness in a safe and appropriate way
For author Dr Monika Schott the experience of being in a family where mental illness is present, and having to explain to her young children the sometimes scary and confusing behaviour they were witnessing, was a powerful driving force in creating her heart warming book ‘My Dad built me the best and wackiest cubby ever.’
“The story came from what I’ve experienced with my family around mental health and having to help my brother get through some tough mental health challenges,” Dr Schott said.
“I started writing the story more than 12 years ago when l was faced with having to try to explain to my young children the strange and scary behaviour they were seeing in people with poor mental health.”
“There were no resources around at the time to help me and I had to figure out how to explain to them what a psychotic episode was,” she added.
The book helps children to explore the topic of mental health and to alleviate the fear and stigma that often comes with it.
It is described as “a timely and compassionate story” about a child and father navigating the father’s mental health struggles that offers parents, teachers and carers a guide on how to talk to children about mental health.
At the beginning of the story the child and father set out to build a cubby house under a sunshiny sky, but before long, clouds appear on the horizon, the sky begins to swell, a storm brews, and finally swirls into pouring rain and eventually subsides.
All the while, the cubby grows wackier, in a metaphor for the father’s mental ill health that gently aligns with the building of the cubby, and changing emotions and weather.
Accompanied by resources for teachers, carers and families, the book was launched recently by leading psychiatrist and professor of Youth Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and Director of Victoria’s Orygen Youth Health, Professor Pat McGorry AO.
“There is still a lot of stigma around mental illness but things are definitely getting better. Twenty years ago, we wouldn’t have seen a book like this,” Professor McGorry AO said.
“Every one of us will have somebody in our family that will suffer from periods of poor mental health, and Monika’s book is a way for younger children to learn about mental illness in a very optimistic and positive way.”
Dr Schott hopes that the book “will go some way in helping to give children, parents and carers new understanding about mental health, belief that even in grey and darkness, there is always hope and magic that’s only covered over.”
The book, ideal for children from five to twelve years of age, can be purchased via Amazon, Booktopia, Barnes & Noble and other e-retailers or direct from Monika Schott at www.monikaschott.com/monika-schott for $25.00 (colour paperback) or $15.00 (black and white).