Awards aside, can we ever win the battle against children's mental health?
By Barry Richardson: Creative Director and creator of the award-winning Worrinots
It’s an extreme honour to start this article with the amazing news that The Worrinots landed gold at the 2017 UK App Awards (in the Children’s / Education category). However, whilst very proud, I’m not telling you that to brag.
Achievement should never be measured in awards. Success should be measured in results. Despite the results from our user basis being very promising, it’s merely the tip of the iceberg. The bigger underlying problem - of growing children’s mental health problems - is where our attention is. I won’t drag you down with the harrowing statistics, but we (the royal ‘we’) need to do more if we’re going to fight the mental wellbeing battle - let alone win it.
It’s been almost two years (to the day) that I sat down with the scary sheet of blank paper with the sole aim of creating a brand and characters that could tackle children’s mental health like never before. Creativity can be an odd process. Sometimes ideas need long incubation, in the case of The Worrinots, the concept, proposition and characters more-or-less created themselves. I guess, in part, to my own childhood experiences with bullying and the coping mechanisms learnt in counselling.
Like all good ideas, The Worrinots started with questioning the status quo. Rather than tackling mental health reactively, what if we could approach it proactively. It was in fact our Project Manager Hannah who set the wheels in motion by saying “what if there was an app for that”.
For us, the award isn’t just another step closer to raising awareness of children’s mental wellbeing. We’re also campaigning for earlier intervention through coping mechanisms, tips and tactics.
But as we’ve experienced over the last two years, it’s not the digital native children we need to convince, it’s the digital immigrants; parents, teachers and government decision makers.
As adults, we happily adopt technology where it’s proven to simplify our lives. Amazon’s Alexa recently moved into my house and whilst she’s still - how shall I put it - teething, ‘voice’ is without doubt, the future of technology. In just 10 years we’ve gone from the introduction of the touchscreen smartphone to “Siri…“, “Hey Google…” and “Alexa, what’s my next appointment?”. If technology and communication go hand in hand for us already, imagine how seamless and integral it will be in our children’s futures.
For many reasons, children don’t always open up to adults. One of our users happily confided in The Worrinots app because she didn’t want to add to her Mum’s problems.
Like adults, children can be scared to share their anxieties for fear of them being trivialised or burdening others. Technology doesn’t judge or have any emotions. And it certainly doesn’t suffer life problems that children don’t want to add to. Technology is an adult’s first port of call for troubleshooting… and it’s no different for children and their anxieties.
When you consider that half of mental health problems are already established by the age of 14, and three quarters by the age of 24, early intervention is key. If we’re ever going to win the battle against rising mental health issues then we need to forearm our children with the right weaponry. Or as Don Quixote’s Miguel de Cervantes once said “To be prepared is half the victory”.
This article was first published on The Huffington Post