My review today focusses on children’s books about depression. Mental health will be difficult for most youngsters to comprehend and therefore a non-threatening picture book to help explain the abstract concept can be very useful.
According to a survey carried out in the UK in 2014, one in six adults reports suffering a common mental health issue in any given week, and so it’s not difficult to extrapolate that a huge number of children will be in close contact with one of them. While they may never be aware (many hide their problems from their peers, let alone children), it’s never too early to start educating our kids about mental health.
Children’s Books About Depression
I’m all for protecting my girls’ innocence for as long as possible, but I also want them to embrace their kindness and compassion and I don’t think it’s wrong to gently teach them that some people struggle. It doesn’t need to be anything more than that and can be kept relatively simple, but awareness is positive for several reasons.
One of these being that not being open about mental health problems perpetuates the stigma, which is not beneficial for anybody.
Another reason it’s so vitally important is that though it saddens me to say it, mental health disorders in children are on the rise. With that in mind, we’ve a responsibility to both acknowledge the issue and help educate our children, so they can ask for help if necessary.
So, I sought out a book on the subject and have been pleasantly surprised by one I ordered to come into my local library. I’m reviewing The Princess and the Fog by Lloyd Jones, an author and illustrator who himself lives with depression.
The Princess and the Fog Review
I loved the book immediately for the pun in its title – I love a pun. The storyline is about a princess who develops a fog (depression) that follows her around and compromises her love of everything in her life.
The book is genius, in a few different ways. Firstly, it describes the main symptoms of depression. It also demonstrates how easily depression can be missed, even by those closest to you, and it explores how family and friends can want to help yet not know how.
Crucially, the story shows loved ones refusing to give up on the princess, and how patience eventually translates to a solution: the biggest positive impact for the princess is simply talking.
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She begins doing things again, which in turn helps to improve her mood. Possibly the most poignant bit of the book though is the fact that there’s a dose of uncomfortable truth at the end: the fog doesn’t clear forever – it sometimes returns. This is often a fact of life for those suffering with depression and it’s brilliant to see it conveyed realistically.
The book finishes with notes from a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and a Highly Specialist Clinical Psychologist discussing triggers, symptoms and treatment of depression in children further cementing its authority on the subject.
The Princess and the Fog is a fantastic resource if you’re keen to introduce your child to the concept of mental health, or to support and encourage them to discuss their own issues and how they may be overcome.
Check out more book reviews and recommendation in this series in the Moral Story Books for Children Index.