“Beyond Words” writing project launches to support young people’s mental health

A new creative writing project is launching today for young people to express their feelings about this extraordinary year, helping to support their mental wellbeing.

Beyond Words for Mental Health Day run by the Bupa Foundation in partnership with Cheltenham Festival, Mind and the National Literacy Trust invites young people of all ages to get their pens (or keyboards!) at the ready and share their own unique thoughts. There are no rules, so participants can also share their creative work through art, music, spoken word, photography or a combination of media.

As well as awards for individuals and schools, each person’s creative submission will generate a £3 donation from The Bupa Foundation to the partner charities to support mental wellbeing projects for young people.

Recent research from Mind shows that two thirds of young people said that their mental health worsened during lockdown. According to research by the National Literacy Trust, 2 in 5 children said writing made them feel better during lockdown and 1 in 4 children said writing helped when they felt sad that they couldn’t see friends and family.

Beyond Words for World Mental Health Day is supported by leading children’s authors including Matt Goodfellow and Jennifer Bell, as well as poets Sophia Thakur and Caleb Parkin. They have provided their thoughts to inspire entrants across the UK to take part.

Writing about how he used words to support his thinking during the pandemic Caleb, a poet said: “When things were at their most confusing and chaotic during lockdown I wrote ‘morning pages’ of whatever was in my head. I still haven’t looked at those pages, and may never, but the act of getting it on the page helped me feel calmer and clearer about another day at home during a pandemic. Writing helps us unpack and learn about pesky, persistent thoughts, and feelings we didn’t even realise we had.

“I hope this project helps others – even if it’s just once – to discover more of themselves and each other through the writing process.”

Sophia Thakur, an award winning, best-selling author and performance poet who has even taken to the stage at Glastonbury agrees: “At first, I found the sudden stillness of 2020 precious. Necessary even. Until I realised how much time we would be spending with our thoughts and feelings. For me it opened a floodgate of new revelations about self. Poetry and art is a way to tap into our thoughts, worries and truths and make sense of our internal happenings during this unsettling time.”

Entries can be uploaded and showcased on the online hub at www.bupafoundation.org/beyond-words.Teachers and students will also be able to access inspiration work from authors and mental wellbeing resources. A selection of entries may also be published in an anthology.

Alex Cole, Chair of the Bupa Foundation said: “In this extraordinary time of Covid-19, Black Lives Matter and climate crisis, it’s never been more important for young people to have time and space to express themselves. Beyond Words for World Mental Health Day provides a platform for young people to put words to their feelings and share their perspectives to help others.”

Ali Mawle, Director of Learning and Public Engagement at Cheltenham Festivals said: “We’ve witnessed first-hand the enormous impact Beyond Words has had on the lives of young people in Gloucestershire who, through physical or mental illness, have been too ill to attend school. Creative writing has been a lifeline for them. We are proud to work in partnership with Bupa Foundation, Mind and the National Literacy Trust so that all young people across the country can take part.”

Jonathan Douglas, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust, said: “During lockdown, many children and young people turned to creative writing as a way to make sense of the extraordinary times we are living in. Giving young people the freedom to explore their thoughts and feelings through creative writing can unlock their imaginations, aspirations and academic potential, while providing them with an essential coping mechanism for difficult situations and emotions. Creative writing will continue to play a vital role in young people’s lives, so we must do everything we can to nurture this – starting with encouraging all young people to take part in Beyond Words for Mental Health Day.”

Paul Famer, Chief Executive Officer of Mind, said: “The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has affected mental health across the country, but children and young people are facing the brunt of it. Nearly half of young people we recently surveyed reported poor or very poor mental health during lockdown, compared to less than a third of adults. Despite some schools and normal activities starting again, the toll of the pandemic and uncertainty we all still feel cannot be underestimated.

“We want to thank the Bupa Foundation for choosing to donate to Mind, and for encouraging young people to share their feelings about how they’ve found this difficult year. The donations will help fund Mind’s vital services, such as our information and advice tailored to children and young people, as well as the campaigning we do to ensure everyone with a mental health problem gets the support and respect they deserve.”

World Mental Health Day is on Saturday 10 October. Beyond Words for World Mental Health Day runs until 18 October. Find out more including inspiration from authors about writing for wellbeing at www.bupafoundation.org/beyond-words.

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