Time To Talk Day 2017

Today is the day for starting those conversations about mental health. On their website, it says:

Conversations about mental health change lives. 
At the moment, too many people with mental health problems are made to feel isolated, ashamed and worthless by other people’s reactions.

But talking about mental health doesn’t need to be difficult. It can be as simple as making time to have a cup of tea or go for a walk, and listening to someone talk about how they feel.

Being open about mental health and ready to listen can make a positive difference to someone’s life.

This is what Time to Talk Day is all about – giving us all the chance to talk and listen about mental health.

This is so important. I have been teaching for many years and am aware of more and more children dealing with mental health issues either in person or because of family members.

One way to approach discussions about mental health is through carefully chosen stories. (A book list on this subject will be availble on our Members' section soon). One such book is 'The Red Tree' by Shaun Tan. Using a book like this should take place in a secure, trusting environment where the adults know the children well and there should be no expectations, judgements or assumptions made.

I make no secret of my love of Shaun Tan's work. His abilty to capture ideas and emotions perfectly is incredible and the detail of his artwork is breathtaking.

'The Red Tree' opens with a listless young girl waking to find blackened leaves engulfing her room as she struggles to start her day.

Sometimes the day begins with nothing to look forward to...

The book progesses from image to image where surreal illustrations show her trying to cope with her emotions as they overwhelm her. An oppressive fish hangs over-shadowing her as she trudges down a street where other people continue about their business, paying no attention to anything else. The simple line

Darkness overcomes you

emphasises the depths of her misery. The nightmarish scenarios continue, echoing our worst dreams until, when all hope seems lost, the little girl returns to her room where a tiny red seedling has taken hold, growing into a beautiful, vivid red tree, casting light across her room.

Words and illustrations combine perfectly, making this book the perfect starting point for discussions about these feelings and inspiring art work to illustrate them. Using Aiden Chambers' 'Tell Me' approaches might help children to offer their likes, dislikes, questions and so on about the images or the text as a whole, opening up discussions and experiences. Drama techniques could be used to explore the little girl's thoughts and feelings - hot seating, freeze framing, thought tapping, for example. A Philosophy4Children approach could also be taken. (Find out more here.)

Poetry is often a very effective and powerful way of encouraging children to express themselves. Selected pictures could be used to generate vocabulary, using Zones of Relevance techniques to hone in on the word a child feels they really need. Having to choose each word for maximum effect might make Haiku a good choice for a structure, but that wouldn't suit everyone!

From this one beautiful book, there are so many possibilities for approaching the very important issues of mental health and well-being.

The Red Tree by Shaun Tan

Hodder Children's Books    ISBN: 978-0734411372

Steve Antony tweeted about 'Draw for your Mind' earlier today. You can find out more about Charlotte Cooke and what she is hoping to achieve on her website.