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The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families receives funding for collaborative animation project

The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families has been awarded nearly £40k for a project aiming to open up a conversation about how to talk about mental health.


‘Talking Mental Health…”, which has been funded by the Wellcome Trust, will work with children and young people to create a 6-minute animated film aimed at 9-11 year olds.

Miranda Wolpert, Head of Programme for Service Development and Evaluation at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, is leading the grant. She said: “There aren’t many resources to support young children in communicating with others if they are facing mental health issues. Producing an animation together is an engaging way to explore difficult and sensitive subjects.”

She added: “This project will draw on and share the experiences of a range of young people, to help other children understand that they are not alone, to help them make informed decisions about whether to talk to someone and to decide who to talk to, and what to expect from others.”

Over 50% of mental illnesses start before the age of 14 and one in ten children and adolescents have a mental health disorder. Yet research shows that young people find it difficult to talk to adults about their issues and there is a need for more work in this area, especially for primary school age children.

Focus groups echo these findings; many young people do not speak to someone for a long time for fear of stigma or bullying. For example, young people have told us:

“The problem is not being able to talk about the problem.”

“You don’t really talk about it because they might, like, they would bully you about it.”

“Give people time. Time to talk about it in their own time. Just let them know you’re there.”

In a series of workshops, a group of children and young people will collaborate with a creative team of animators, film makers and sound artists. They will use animation, live-action film, drama, drawing, sound and words to bring ideas and experiences to life.

A range of supporting materials for teachers and parents will be developed alongside the animation. The aim is to enable lively, open and realistic conversations about mental health to take place in the classroom.

The products will be disseminated widely, with the aim of reaching 20,000 children and young people.

The grant has been awarded by the Wellcome Trust’s People Award Scheme, which funds innovative and creative projects that engage the public with biomedical science and/or the history of medicine.

The team from the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families will be working with the Creative Research Collective, a team of artists and researchers who have made a number of successful animation films with and for children and young people, and with Common Room, a user participation social enterprise.

The Centre previously worked with the Creative Research Collective on a series of animations about young people's experiences of depression.