A new storybook has been launched to support the two and a half million children in the UK thought to be experiencing mental health complications as a result of their parents or carers suffering serious injuries.
New research has found that 58% of children of the estimated 4.8 million parents or carers living with serious injuries following an accident or medical negligence, experience major changes to their life, often resulting in both short- and long-term mental health issues. This can include upheaval such as missing time in education, moving to a new house to accommodate their parent’s condition, changing school, witnessing their parents separate or divorce, being looked after by other relatives or friends, or even being forced to take on carer responsibilities.
The research – conducted by Fletchers Serious Injury – showed that such events can impact a child’s mental and emotional health and well-being. Many suffer from shock, anxiety, anger outbursts, and insomnia. Many also develop their own coping strategies to process the impact on their lives. In extreme cases, children are diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder.
Furthermore, a third (31%) of parents and carers living with the effects of a serious injury or medical negligence said there were not sufficient resources available to help their family cope with the challenges they experienced, while a quarter said resources to specifically explain to children what has happened would have helped.
In response, the top 100 law firm has created and launched a new children’s book that explores the practical and emotional changes a family might face following a serious injury. Bracky Builds a New Den, the book developed by Fletchers Serious Injury, is the tale of a happy dinosaur whose life is turned upside down when the father suffers a serious injury.
Aimed at children aged 5–8 years who are living in similar circumstances, the book has been commissioned following a period of analysis and development, which included market research, tailored professional advice from therapists, and first-hand accounts from families and children who have experienced serious injury.
Charlotte Beaumont, child psychotherapist and counsellor, who supported Fletchers Serious Injury in the creation of Bracky Builds a New Den, said: ‘It’s understandably a worrying time for a child when their parent or carer experiences a significant injury or medical condition, and it can’t be underestimated just how much the practical and emotional challenges can impact their mental health – not just in the short-term, but the long-term too.
‘When an event like this occurs, children naturally try to make sense of the world around them with the explanations they have available to them. So, it is useful to help children to understand in an age-appropriate way what has occurred and update this as they grow to fit their more sophisticated development.
‘With this book, Fletchers Serious Injury is helping to overcome a very real issue in a sensitive and empathetic way. It can act as a conversation starter with families who find themselves in a similar story, providing them with the opportunity to explore the situation from different angles because, although the story features a trauma, it also highlights the transition to a “new normal” and a feeling of hopefulness for what’s to come.
‘Having parents and children involved in storytelling can be a lovely way to heal together as a family and discuss what may be possible going forwards, offering empowerment and some sense of control in a situation where that felt lost. We envisage Bracky Builds a New Den will have a positive impact on the families around the country who are dealing with the challenges of serious injury and medical negligence.’
Adrian Denson, chief legal officer at Fletchers Serious Injury, said: ‘Sustaining a serious injury is a life-changing experience. Over the years, we’ve helped thousands of families to rebuild their lives following serious injury and medical negligence and know how such incidents can affect everything from well-being and relationships to career and financial security.
‘Our research showed that while there’s lots of information available on how a significant, life-changing event can impact children from a scientific point of view, there is very little available to actually guide them through the practical and emotional challenges that will come along the way.
‘That’s why we created this storybook. Though it seeks to explore many of the different ways young children could react to their parent or carer experiencing a serious injury, it’s important to remember that everyone’s circumstances are unique. As serious injury specialists, our priority for those affected is to support them with all the associated challenges a serious injury brings and to extend our service to their wider family and network, too.’
An e-book of Bracky Builds a New Den is available for download, where interested parties can also offer a donation to Fletchers Serious Injury’s charity partners. There are also a variety of activity and fact sheets for younger and older children to download, to help them cope with the challenges of a parent or carer suffering a serious injury. All these materials are available via the Fletchers Serious Injury website.