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My experience working on the ‘We all have mental health’ animation

Phoebe Ralph2.jpg

Phoebe Ralph, age 14, shares her experience of co-designing our 'We all have mental health' animation. She was involved in our workshops, script editing and reviewing the animation. 

Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families did a workshop at my school, Crestwood Community College, to get ideas for an animation for secondary pupils in my age group. I learnt a lot in a short amount of time and more importantly, I enjoyed it and felt welcome by the team. When I first received the letter from my school that I was going to attend the workshop, tears couldn’t be held back. This shows how important mental health awareness is to me. This is why Anna Freud do what they do and why this animation has been created. We did many activities such as guessing true or false facts about mental health, guessing emotions by expressions, which lead onto talking about how negative feelings can’t always be seen. The facts I learnt were shocking but shows that mental health awareness needs to reach schools, colleges and many people. We also spoke about the people in our lives and how they can help long term moods by, for example, seeing a school counsellor.

At one point in the workshop, the topic became sensitive for me and I had to leave the room, but because the team reassured us that we can leave at any time, I felt comfortable and happy to do so. Everyone in the group collaborated well and the atmosphere helped me communicate how I was feeling. It helped that I had friends and people I knew in the workshop that were keeping me going, as well as the team and school staff.

Individually, we made a comic strip of a storyline and what ideas we would want in the animation. My friend Tom wrote about a metaphor of a waterfall, which André (one of the characters) talks about in the animation, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. In groups we also made a comic strip story with A3 sheets about mental health and we read each other's to help with ideas and structure. The first thing I observed was that both comic strips featured social media and that demonstrates the impact social media has on this generation.

The reviews of the animations were fun because we were given sheets to fill ratings out of five and we had popcorn to keep us going. It was interesting to perceive the difference between scorings within age groups. For example, younger students liked the animations with colour and the older students understood the metaphors, like André’s, and rated those animations higher.

Leading on from the comic strips, in groups we created a drama piece about mental health. It was fun to be able to express what we’d written collaboratively. Watching others act gave others confidence and it was interesting to see what they came up with. Most of us included the positives of coping and reaching out for help.

In another activity, we had papers with different questions on – Who, What, Where, How and Why. We were asked to describe ways of coping, for example, who we’d go to when in crisis. This was interesting as it put into perspective how each person sees different activities and people in their lives, it was helpful and a good way of getting through a difficult time. These skills are featured in the animation and I cope with these skills to this day. Being a fighter with mental health myself, this animation and Anna Freud helped me and will certainly help you.

I feel that these activities and meeting the team has been really helpful for me and everybody in the workshop, even the school staff. Schools, colleges, people you stand by at the bus stop, families, anyone needs to be aware of the animation, mental health and the capability you have to help yourself and others.

Myself and my friend James, who was also in the workshop, have been involved in the process of the animation from start to finish, which I will be forever thankful. Anna Freud have been emailing me the script and versions of the animation as they developed. I was able to feed back and have my say in the animation. Despite having a difficult time recently, Anna Freud was able to communicate with me and I never thought I would be lucky enough to be heard as much as I have been. I want to thank Anna Freud for this opportunity, it means a lot to me and my family.

I think this animation will inspire your awareness to be mindful of mental health.

Our 'We all have mental health' animation and teacher toolkit will be released in early October.