6 Books to Help Children Understand Mental Health

6 Books to Help Children Understand Mental Health

The Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside

Wherever Jenny goes, her worries follow her – in a big blue bag. They are there when she goes swimming, when she is watching TV, and even when she is in the lavatory. Jenny decides they will have to go. But who can help her?

The Huge Bag of Worries is a compelling picture book which can be used as a spring board into discussing what children are worried about.

Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson

Juno Dawson leads the way in discussing mental health with this frank, factual and funny book, with added information and support from clinical psychologist Dr Olivia Hewitt.

Covering topics from anxiety and depression to addiction, self-harm and personality disorders, Juno and Olivia talk clearly and supportively about a range of issues facing young people’s mental health – whether fleeting or long-term – and how to manage them. Mind Your Head contains real-life stories from young people around the world and witty illustrations from Gemma Correll.

Blame My Brain by Nicola Morgan

During the teenage years the brain is undergoing its most radical and fundamental change since the age of two. Nicola Morgan’s carefully researched, accessible and humorous examination of the ups and downs of the teenage brain has chapters dealing with powerful emotions, the need for more sleep, the urge to take risks, the difference between genders and the reasons behind addiction or depression.

This revised edition of her classic book contains important new research, including information about the discovery of mirror neurons and their effect on the teenage brain.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Auggie wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things – eating ice cream, playing on his Xbox. He feels ordinary – inside. But ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids aren’t stared at wherever they go. Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all?

An astonishingly moving book and now a major film, there are many meaningful messages to be taken away from Wonder; from being brave and standing up for yourself to understanding that it’s not your circumstances that determine your happiness, but your outlook and attitude.

But What If… by Paula Nagel

Jake is in Year 6. He is worried about the transition to secondary school because he has heard many rumours, including one about the older pupils flushing first years’ heads down the toilets. The story illustrates how many of the pupils share similar worries about the impending transition even though their behaviour looks different. Jake’s behaviour illustrates his initial negative coping strategies as his worry grows. This includes not talking about it, opting out of his usual interests and activities, not sleeping and becoming angry with his mother. Some of his worries are alleviated on his taster visit to the new school, especially when he plucks up the courage to go into the boys’ toilets. Following a misunderstanding in the toilets with some older boys, he is able to share his worries with another pupil and use humour to reflect on his behaviour.

This therapeutic story focuses on worries about transition to secondary school and comes with useful information and facts about mental health.

Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley

Badger is so old that he knows he will soon die. He tries to prepare his friends for this event, but when he does die, they are still grief-stricken. Gradually they come to terms with their grief by remembering all the practical things Badger taught them, and so Badger lives on in his friends’ memories of him.

A touching and moving tale of loss and friendship, Badger’s Parting Gifts provides comfort to children who may have lost a loved one and explains that grief can eventually give way to happy memories.