An author is hoping to use her books as a resource for mental health.
“One of my big goals is to help kids with mental health and help strengthen their resilience,” said Jennifer Misener, author of the book Head Space.
Head Space was written by Misener under her pen name, Jenny Mouse. She grew up in Lyn and has family connections in Delta. The book follows the character Brian the Brain as he navigates daily activities of the brain and teaches children about their own brain and how it works.
Misener explained that she faced struggles of mental health throughout her childhood but didn’t have the words to describe or express how she felt and what was going on. She didn’t realize that wasn’t normal.
She still struggles with mental illness in her adulthood but she’s now able to put a name to the way she feels and is able to address it better.
She hopes that if kids can understand their own brain they can advocate for themselves and that hopefully parents will be able to spot the signs of their child struggling with mental illness and help support them.
October is Mental Health Awareness Month and is a key time to help bring attention to the struggle that some children are going through, and it is a chance to highlight some things we should be thinking about all year round, said Misener.
“The more we understand mental health and talk about it, the better understanding we can have with that,” added Misener.
When Misener discovered a difference in the behavior of her online students after the COVID-19 pandemic had started and schools began to close, she decided to publish her book as a possible resource for kids to help reduce the impact of stress and mental health struggles.
She said she noticed the biggest shift in her students after the schools were closed; many of them became withdrawn, while some were easily distracted and they often brought up the topic of not being able to see their friends or being bored at home and not being able to do much of anything at the time.
Misener continues to teach students about the brain through a platform called OutSchool.
According to a study done by The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) over 70 per cent of children ages two to 18 years old who took part in the survey reported worse mental health during the initial COVOD-19 lockdowns.
She’s noticed that some parents have been struggling right alongside with their children throughout the pandemic.
“I had one class were I asked a very normal question about what they were going to do this weekend, and I had a parent in the background kind of testily say: ‘It’s COVID, there’s nothing to do.’”
She said she tried to make her class stay a positive space that could feel as normal as possible but it was jarring for her to hear that everyone was going through the same thing at the same time.
Despite the restrictions easing up and schools reopening, many kids are still having to deal with new protocols in school, some for the very first time, like mask wearing, social distancing and quarantining, and social isolating is still playing a part on children’s well-being.
She hopes that her book and the two more that are in the works will help children understand and conceptualize the brain more by making it a visual thing, and visualize how to strengthen it.
“This is a foundation for them to understand how their brain works and learn how to protect it and take care of it,” said Misener.
The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit website notes: “It’s OK to not feel OK. This is a challenging time for everyone. Creating new routines and rituals, and finding ways to have fun and be active can help adjust to this new situation.”
The Health Unit’s website has more information regarding mental health and well-being.
Misener also has a donation program set up to provide schools and libraries with her book. Donated funds go towards printing and shipping fees.