Aardman Animations, the award-winning studio maker of Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, has joined forces with LSE for a campaign to encourage young people to become more aware of factors that may be having a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
‘What’s Up With Everyone?’ sees the launch of a series of short films: loneliness, perfectionism, competitiveness, independence and social media aimed at people aged 17-24, and has been co-developed with the young audience it sets out to support, ensuring the content is relevant to the challenges to mental wellbeing they face.
The campaign was led by Professor of Health Humanities Paul Crawford at the University of Nottingham, with research teams at the University of Nottingham, Loughborough University, and LSE.
Dr Thomas Curran, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science at LSE and contributor to the project, said: "My work on this project has been as Co-Investigator supporting the development of resources for psychoeducation, most centrally on the topic of youth perfectionism.
"It is a significant project. Young people’s voices are often missing in mental health campaigns. Our work with Aardman has foregrounded young people’s experiences of mental health struggle and fused them our academic research to co-create an energetic and hopeful set of animated films.
"In a challenging time, when youth mental health is sadly worsening, these films are sorely needed. We tell young people’s stories through the narrative of their own experiences. We hope that in them young people can find solace, community, and education.
"The struggle really is real, and it’s okay. You’re not alone, help is available. A vital message for a critical time."
The partnership comes at a time when the pandemic has increased the focus on youth mental wellbeing, with reports that two thirds of young people have experienced worse mental health during the period of lockdown restrictions.
A recent NHS survey also showed that one in six children and young people had a probable mental health disorder in July 2020, compared to one in nine in 2017, whilst the Office for National Statistics (ONS) discovered that more than half of all students at University (57%) reported a worsening in their mental health and well-being since the beginning of the autumn term in September 2020.
Professor Paul Crawford from the School of Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham, and Principal Investigator of the project, said: “These wonderful short animated stories should help all our young people to think about, and explore solutions to the kind of mental health challenges that come with difficult life transitions, such as heading off to university or college or starting in training or employment. The films and supporting online resources will be very welcome at this time, with all the disruption and anxieties in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“As well as providing a much needed mental health resource, this campaign forms part of a wider research project that will also evaluate how effective these creative platforms are as a way of reaching the young people who need it, and ensuring help and guidance is easily accessible.”
The collaborative project – informed by research commissioned and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) that involved Loughborough University’s Storytelling Academy – will develop and evaluate the impact of a series of animated stories aiming to increase young people’s mental health literacy. LSE worked alongside the University of Nottingham, Loughborough University, the Mental Health Foundation, mental wellbeing charity, Happy Space; and young people's mental health expert, Dr Dominique Thompson.