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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Jo Brand and co. star in new kids’ emotional health app

With more than half of young children aged 3-7 struggling with emotional health problems, comedian and former mental health nurse Jo Brand joins a host of celebrities to feature in a new app about emotional resilience.

Children’s TV presenters Nigel Clarke and Giovanna Fletcher, DJ Owain Wyn Evans, musicians Harry & Izzy Judd, actresses Penelope Wilton and Zoë Wanamaker will feature too.

Research shows that only one in five parents believe that their child can effectively manage their emotions, whilst more than two thirds (69 percent) of parents believe that their child has emotional health difficulties such as identifying or defining their feelings, communicating how they feel or managing them in unfamiliar situations.

The main emotional health issues parents report are concerns over anxiety (46 percent), neurodevelopmental conditions (32 percent) and low mood (29 percent) revealed the study of more than 1000 parents by Embers the Dragon, a digital programme designed to support the emotional wellbeing of young children and their families.

With one in every six children being diagnosed with a mental health condition in the UK, early intervention is key, however, many children are not getting the support they need as they do not meet the minimum threshold for specialist care or are stuck on a long Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service waiting list.

When emotional issues are missed in younger life, they can lead to bigger mental health issues arising in teenage years.

Behaviour is also a cause for concern, with 51 percent of parents saying they were worried about how to manage certain behaviours. Younger parents (aged 18-24) were more likely to have concerns about their child with 75 percent of younger parents worrying that their child has experienced difficulties with their mental wellbeing and anxiety in the past.

However, younger parents were less likely to seek support from health professionals with 44 percent saying they would go to health professionals compared with the group average of 50 percent. 

Embers the Dragon, a collaboration between clinicians, storytellers and educators, has developed an app, which is undergoing a clinical trial run by the School of Applied Sciences at London South Bank University.

Starring Jo Brand as narrator, Penelope Wilton as Mrs Owl ,the school teacher and kids TV presenter, Nigel Clarke as Mr Koala, the digital intervention is centred around a parenting course with content for children, including an animation series, games and activities.

Jo Brand said: “I have noticed an increase recently in young children struggling with mental health issues, which are often complex and start from an early age. My own dad, suffered from depression as a very young man, and it went untreated until well into middle age, damaging our family in a variety of ways. We simply can’t overlook the profound impact that early experiences have in shaping us.

“By the time a child is three or four years old, much of their adult character is already firmly established. And that is why I’m involved with Embers and believe it is so important. I think the stories are beautifully told, but more importantly, as an ex mental health nurse, who has always had interest in mental wellbeing, I think it is the way in which the messages are conveyed that is also vital, because they are so easy for children to identify with and absorb.”

Designed for children aged 3-7 and their families, the programme integrates Social Learning Theory and Self Determination Theory into a combination of children’s entertainment and parental education, which empowers parents, educators and carers to better understand and support their child’s emotional well-being.  

Emma Taylor, mental health NHS nurse specialist and co founder of Embers the Dragon said: “Understanding and supporting children’s emotional development can be a complex and challenging task. All families at some point struggle to cope with young children’s feelings and behaviours. There is a need for accessible and clinically endorsed support, especially in the digital age, to help parents navigate these challenges and foster healthy emotional wellbeing. 

“Embers is designed to be non-judgemental and supportive of all families; knowing that any proactive step taken to develop a child’s mental wellbeing is a positive. In future, we hope that it can be prescribed as support for families who are below the threshold for specialised input, thereby reducing the need to remain on CAHMS waiting lists that are longer than ever.”

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