It seems aeons since schools were open, playgrounds were filled with children lounging, and we could all visit friends and family without restriction. Once lockdown hit, it was an unprecedented interruption to life as we know it.
Very few of us are the same now as we were in March. Most of us know at least one person who has been adversely affected by social confinement: perhaps a neighbour who’s terrified to go out, a friend obsessed with washing their hands, or maybe even you or your partner have developed fears you didn’t have before.
If so many adults have struggled to remain on an even ‘mental’ keel, what about the children? It is not uncommon for children to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Mental health problems affect about 1 in 10 children and young people. They include depression, anxiety, and conduct disorder, and they are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives.
We’re not claiming to fix the issue, just drawing attention to it and trying to help parents, carers, teachers, or children. How do you even start a conversation about feelings and mental health during and post-lockdown? It’s unprecedented.
That’s exactly why Rethink the Rainbow was created. Essentially, it’s a lockdown project that has become a social living history. A compendium of stories, art, poetry, narrations, biographies, and fun activities from over 60 real people, spanning six continents with contributors ranging in age from 3 to 70.
Each has a unique personal perspective that they have shared in the hope that theirs may be the one that resonates with someone, somewhere and inspires, or starts, a difficult but very necessary conversation.
The experiences within are as diverse as the people who donated them, starting with Steve Judge, a gold medal athlete whose Scout Group share their video of lockdown A–Z coping skills.
Atlanta’s poem is about being bullied as a youngster. There’s also George, aged 12, who found it easier to write his thoughts and feelings down, rather than speak about them when his mum was diagnosed with cancer.
Jasmine, aged 10, wrote her poem to help process the grief she felt on losing a very close aunt. Lily Myra, aged 7, expresses her sadness about the number of people dying of COVID-19. Ivy, aged 16, explains how her passion for music and singing pulled her through lockdown – and that has not even scratched the surface.
Though our mission is to raise awareness about children’s mental health, we aren’t claiming to be education or mental health professionals. I’m a project manager and Emily Payne is a children’s author.
We did, however, have immense support from educators, including Kelly Hannaghan and Jane Bell. Also, veteran mental health professionals helped like May Whyte, as well as youth workers, athletes, performers, poets, doctors, strangers, friends, and, of course, lots of children.
Rethink the Rainbow’s unique collection of experiences has been compiled to help parents, carers, teachers, and children to find their voice in a fun and creative way both at home and in the classroom. Plus, it’s a work in progress. Coming soon are lesson plans and other resources for parents and teachers.
Rethink the Rainbow is available for a minimum donation of £9.99.
Please help to support the four grassroots children’s charities to support young people’s mental health. Buy the book, spread the word, and share the link with your network and friends.
Samantha Maeer is a mental health advocate and author.