I am delighted to welcome Ewa Jozefkowicz to the blog today to talk about children’s mental health. With figures showing that in an average class of 30 young people, three will have a mental health problem, and 10% of children aged 5-16 have been diagnosed with a mental health problem, it’s an issue that needs to be addressed, so that we can offer support when our children need it most.
Whenever anybody asks what or who inspired me to write a children’s book – I always tell them about my dad. I’ve never met anyone who was quite so passionate about reading. Books were literally his life – he worked as a bookseller and he read in every moment of free time that he had. One of my favourite memories from early childhood was struggling into my parents’ bedroom late at night (I was supposed to be asleep), with a stack of books under my arm, and demanding that my dad read them to me. He almost always obliged.
It was a big blow when he died. I was a teenager at the time and I had no idea how to deal with the grief. For ages, I would be fine and then suddenly the darkness would creep up on me unexpectedly when I was going about my day at school, eating lunch with friends, or doing my maths homework. I was very lucky to have great teachers who wanted to help, and an incredible group of friends who made me feel like I was always cared for.
It wasn’t until many years later, being a school governor, and working for a school leader support service, that I realised quite how lucky I was. Many children who are struggling don’t have the same network of support, and sometimes, even those who do, feel as if they can’t access it. Some may worry about showing weakness; others simply may not believe that anyone will care enough to do something to help them.
I’m so glad that children and young people’s mental health is a subject which is increasingly cropping up in the media, because the more we’re all aware of how big an issue it is, the more we can do to remove the stigma around asking for help, and the more resources can be set aside to support those children who are struggling the most.
Izzy initially refuses to tell her family members, her best friend Lou, and her teachers about how she’s feeling, because she thinks that ‘nobody else will understand about the colour thief’. It’s only when her neighbour Toby tells her about his own struggles, that she feels that she can share with him the awful nightmares that she’s been experiencing, and together, they’re able to figure out how to fight them.
The Mystery of the Colour Thief is a story of a broken friendships, of illness and of sadness, but there is also much light in it. Izzy loses an old friend who no longer understands her, but she also gains a new one in Toby, and she discovers a nest of swans with a tiny cygnet, Spike, who is even more lost than she is. Both help her on her quest, so she is no longer alone.
I hope that it will resonate with young readers who have experienced similar emotions, and will encourage them to share their feelings with somebody who can help them to bring the colours back into their world.