REPRESENTATION Mental Health Awareness Week



This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week. Words & Pictures Editor Eva Wong Nava focuses on three authors whose books have shone a light on the importance of mental health issues for young readers. 


Since its inception 21 years ago, Mental Health Awareness Week has grown locally and globally. It was started by the Mental Health Foundation, which continues to set the theme for this annual event, raising awareness of different aspects of mental health issues and their impact on our physical and mental wellness. This year’s theme is loneliness.


As creatives, we know and understand that the creative process is a lonely one. By this, I mean that a lot of creative work is done alone in our studios and writing corners. But we also know and understand that creativity takes a village: creative work feeds off and into other creative work. And although the process of writing and illustrating is done alone, networking and socialising with other like-minded folks is part and parcel of the creative process. The pandemic lockdowns have put paid to this, and in its wake, COVID-19 has magnified that loneliness, creating feelings of isolation.

 Loneliness is an apt theme to explore in 2022. Research has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many children to experience high levels of loneliness and isolation especially during the lockdowns. The need for books is ever more important during a crisis like this. It has often been said that books save lives; stories connect us. Cliched as the saying goes, there is truth in cliches. The need for connectivity has become more pertinent as we all learn to live in the new normal. I feel that there is also a real need for children and young adults to read books that focus on mental heath.


Holly Bourne


Holly is a feminist and an agony aunt. She is also a best selling author and an advocate for women’s rights. Inspired by her work with youths and her own experience of every day sexism, Holly writes stories that focus on women’s rights, sexual consent, and she is also an ambassador of Women’s Aid, a charity that works to raise awareness of the impact of domestic abuse on women's and children’s mental health. Last but not least, Holly is also one of the ambassadors of the YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention).


                 Book Cover from Author Website          


I particularly love the premise of The Places I’ve Cried In Public. Coming of age and falling in love can be something of a torment for many young girls. I wish that when I was a teenager and emotionally all over the place, I had an author like Holly Bourne to read.


Danielle Jawando


Danielle wears many hats. She is an author, screenwriter and an educator. She is a girl after my own heart. Danielle is an associate lecturer (Writing for Children) at The Manchester Writing School, part of the Manchester Metropolitan University.


Living and teaching in Manchester, it is no wonder that she has set her second YA novel — When Our Worlds Collided — in Manchester. Manjeet Mann (The Crossing) has called this novel “ [a] raw, unflinching and powerful story…” 


Jawando’s novel is another coming-of-age novel where “three teenagers from very different walks of life are unexpectedly brought together” (source: Simon & Schuster website). The story touches on the entrenched racism and prejudices that reside in the structures of power: the police and the media, and also within society itself.


Think about how lonely it can be for a Black, Asian and/or East Asian teenager when they discover that the people who should protect them, like the police, are instead not fighting their corner, or when the media stereotypes them/us (I am British Chinese/East Asian) even if the screenwriters and advertising agencies mean well.


 Book Cover: Simon & Schuster website

                                                                                  Book Cover: Scallywag Press website


Cori Doerrfeld


After talking about two intensely captivating books for older readers, I’d like to shine a light on a book for the younger end of the age range: my favourite picture book, The Rabbit Listened. This picture book, I feel, explores a sub-theme that is linked to the theme of loneliness, and that is, being heard. When we feel heard, we feel less lonely. And, “through it all, the rabbit never left” — imagine what happens inside a child (aged 4-8) when they hear these words.


The Rabbit Listened is a New York Times best-seller, which is now published by Scallywag Press in England. It was authored by author-illustrator Cori Doerrfeld, who lives in Minneapolis, United States. And I am so excited that this picture book is now available in Spanish — El Conejo Escuchó.


It is a delightful story about a character named Taylor who has to grapple with disappointment when something they are doing isn’t quite working out, while at the same trying to remain calm as their well-meaning friends supply them with advice on how to feel and what to do. Just when Taylor has had enough, overwhelmed by their friends loud voices, a rabbit comes along and just listens. The feeling of being heard trumps, as we learn in this gorgeously illustrated and written narrative. It helps to remind us all that children just want to be heard and most of all, children just want to be.


                                                                                                                                            *Header image: ©Janelle Wahren




Eva Wong Nava writes across genres and age ranges. She is known for her picture books and has forthcoming ones soon to be announced. Eva is the Events Editor for Words & Pictures. You can contact her Find her on Twitter and IG @evawongnava




Janelle Wahren is a freelance illustrator based in Buckinghamshire. She loves creating whimsical quirky characters and drawing all things relating to children’s books and greeting cards. Website: Instagram:

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