It’s alarming that one in seven young people aged 4 to 17 years experience a mental health condition in any given year. In 2015, it was reported one in fourteen young Australians (6.9%) aged 4 to 17 experienced an anxiety disorder.
That’s equivalent to approximately 278,000 young people.
My two young daughters are part of these statistics, both having gone through different episodes of severe anxiety and counselling. One due to an anxious personality that had intensified to unhealthy levels. The other due to a school bomb scare that had rocked her confidence and resilience.
Hard To Know What To Do!
It’s hard to watch as a parent. And hard to know what to do. For me, there was also another layer to dealing with their worries and anxiety. I was also going through a period of severe anxiety myself.
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This sounds strange, but in a way that was a blessing, as I knew how important getting professional support was. And how important it was to speak up about these worries. Like many men, I covered up what I was going through for many years and saw the negative impact of this on myself and my family. Our kids’ wellbeing is too important not to help them talk about their worries and if required, seek the additional help of experts.
There should be no stigma attached to this, and it’s getting better especially with the heightened awareness around mental health for all ages. But believe me, it’s still a difficult subject to talk about.
So when my own severe anxiety led me to leaving my own business for a period of time, I decided to do something positive and write a picture book for kids dealing with worries.
Why Worry Wally!
I’d been a copywriter for over 25 years but had always written professionally for clients, never for myself. I had always wanted to write a picture book since reading to my two daughters, but never had the energy or space to do it. Ironically, it took me to take time off due to the anxiety to finally get down to writing my first picture book, titled Why Worry Wally?
It’s a pretty heavy subject for 4-8 year olds. I know. It’s why I’ve used rhyme and humour to create a story that is first and foremost fun and engaging, and appeals as much to parents as it does to kids. And why I also teamed up with long-time friend and international artist/illustrator Jackie Case who has added her own beautifully quirky style to the book.
My aim was to use Wally and his worries to normalise anxiety and act as a positive conversation-starter for children and their parents around the subject. It’s important that kids feel like they are not alone or weird for having these thoughts and feelings, and that there’s things they can do that can help. Like simply talking about their worries – with a parent, a friend, a teacher, or a doctor. Thinking positive thoughts. Or breathing and exercising.
As you can see I’m extremely passionate about kids health and wellbeing, so I’ve also partnered up with Kids Helpline so that I can support this incredible not-for profit organisation through donating a percentage of any profits made from the sale of the books.
I Need Your Help!
But before I can do this I have one little problem. I need to publish the book first.
As you can imagine, publishing a picture book on the theme of worries and anxiety is not the easiest sell. It’s not like talking about fluffy rainbows and pink unicorns. So after having no luck going down the traditional publishing route, I’m self-publishing the book and am currently running a Kickstarter Campaign to raise the funds.
My dream is to reach as many kids as I can with Why Worry Wally? including starting a schools program to foster discussions with students, parents and teachers.
I’ve seen first hand the importance of making kids feel they can talk openly about their worries, and I’d love Why Worry Wally? to play a part in helping with this. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make this dream a reality soon.
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