An innovative project, using creativity to explore health and wellbeing issues affecting young people, has now been up and running for four months – thanks to a successful bid to the Knowsley Better Together fund.
Listen Up, run by Comic Youth CIC in Kirkby, had an idea that would have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of residents, but just needed a funding boost to help them to get their idea ‘off the ground’. They heard about Knowsley Better Together, which brings people and organisations together to achieve more for Knowsley and its residents.
They were allocated a grant of £10,000 in November 2017, which is being used to support 70 young people, aged from eight to 18 years, to design, create and publish a comic book (online and print) which explores their health and emotional wellbeing, whilst also improving literacy skills. The finished product will then be distributed across the borough’s schools, organisations and the wider community.
Issues to be explored include anxiety, aspirations, stress, depression, but this innovative project aims to explore these issues in an environmental where they feel they can express their feelings and know that they are being listened to.
We went along to meet Rhiannon Mair Griffiths, Project Manager at Comic Youth CIC to see how the project is making a difference to local people.
Can you tell us about your project?
Our project aims to support the literacy, wellbeing and mental health of young people in an innovative way. We use comic books and zines as a gateway to engagement and a tool for learning and supporting young people with their reading skills. We provide advice, guidance and materials for young people to create and publish their own comics and zines.
The combination of a safe, inclusive space where the young people feel welcomed and valued is a key part of the project, as is the life experiences of the staff who all have experiences of mental health issues and want to support young people to ensure they maintain good mental health.
As part of this project, we have designed a literacy assessment tool. Through reading a section of a comic book, we are able to assess the challenge level of the book for that young person and their reading age, identify whether the young person is struggling with a certain type of cue (such as meaning, structural or visual) and determine any key issues around visual comprehension.
Gathering this information helps us to better support the young people we work with and we can adjust our session planning to better help that young person develop their alphabetical and visual literacy. It also means that we are able to start assessing comics not only in terms of whether the content is age-appropriate, but how challenging the book will be for certain readers and what reading age the comic book would typically suit best.
How did you hear about Knowsley Better Together?
We heard about the Knowsley Better Together funding through attending an event organised by Knowsley Council for Voluntary Services.
How does your Listen Up project support Knowsley Better Together?
The group has been able to undertake work with young people who are displaying complex needs including acute mental health problems. The funding has enabled the team to offer these young people a space to talk about issues affecting them and to express the challenges in their life through the development of short comic style booklets called ‘zines’. The project is helping to improve the health and wellbeing of children and young people in Knowsley – by talking about their issues, appropriate support can then be provided to help them to develop their skills and confidence as well as building their own emotional resilience.
What are the expected outcomes from the Listen Up project?
Over the course of the next 12 months, the project will provide 70 young people with the opportunity to talk about their mental health and have their voices heard through publishing comics and zines about issues that are important to them. We hope this will help to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health within Knowsley and build resilient futures for our young people.
What advice would you give others who have an idea to work Better Together?
Ensure that you prioritise the voice of their beneficiaries in the planning, design and development of the project – and to not be afraid to challenge the status quo and think of ideas that are outside of the box!