Author hopes children’s literature can spark conversation about mental health

For children’s author Sheree Fitch, developing empathy and compassion is only part of the mental health puzzle.

For some children and adults, the missing piece is often learning to turn that compassion inward.

It’s the difference between being a good person on the outside and being a resilient person on the inside, understanding that no one is perfect and accepting their imperfections.

This is part of the inspiration for his book Everyone is different on EveryBody Streetwhich she wrote in 2001 to start a discussion about mental health and addiction.

EveryBody’s Different on EveryBody Street was written to raise awareness about mental illness and addiction.

The book has now been translated into French, and Moncton’s Frye Festival will host a panel on children’s literature and mental health on Thursday with Fitch, Marie Cadieux, who translated the book, and South African illustrator Emma FitzGerald.

“There’s so much emphasis right now collectively and globally on how our mental and spiritual health has been affected,” she told CBC. Fredericton Information Morning.

“It’s encouraging for me because there was a time when we couldn’t dare to say we were scared and anxious.”

Written from personal experience

When she wrote the book, Fitch said her son struggled with his learning disability and then with mental health and addiction issues. She wasn’t sure she could broach the subject without the book being too personal, she said.

But with her husband’s encouragement, she wrote it down.

The translated French version was released in 2018, just months after Fitch’s son died.

She said that when her son went to school, the system didn’t accept children with neurodivergence very well. Although there has been increased acceptance and understanding, Fitch said there are still struggling children.

“I always know there’s a kid in a classroom that’s…scared inside,” she said.

16:35Children’s books and mental health

Sheree Fitch wrote EveryBody’s Different on EveryBody Street to start a discussion with kids about mental health and addiction. It’s now available in French, and Fitch and his collaborators will host a Frye Fest panel discussion on Thursday. 16:35

“There are parents who say, ‘I would give anything to improve this job for my child.’ And that these parents are also here today.”

Fitch said writing a children’s book about mental health isn’t about giving answers or nudging kids in a certain direction. She said the goal is to make space for parents, teachers and children to talk about something that isn’t always easy to discuss.

“What I want is to start thinking their own thoughts and having their own opinions about life… What you should be doing is offering something that triggers that critical thinking inquiry.”

She said starting those conversations early could mean avoiding having to work harder later in life, when a person has forgotten that not having all the answers isn’t a bad thing.

After her son’s death, Fitch said she felt there was no way out of her sadness, but her mother reminded her that “the sadness will get sweeter.”

She has written a second book for an adult audience, titled You won’t always be so sadwhich she says helped her out of her depression.

“There’s an acceptance in me now because I know he’s not struggling anymore. There’s really nothing you can do but continue to love them, and I know I did.”

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