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Feelings Groups with Beyond Words. A BBC Radio 4 Appeal.

It’s hard to learn when you’re hurting inside. That’s why Beyond Words, the charity I founded, is using a Radio 4 Appeal to build Feelings Groups, providing peer-group support to give children and young people a safe place to talk about their emotions.

Children’s mental health is in crisis. Often, they don’t know how to begin to talk about what they’re feeling. But we still expect them to turn up to school and engage with their lessons, even when they might be in a lot of pain inside. That’s why we are trying to change that – to give children the tools to begin to communicate about their inner feelings and what is going on in their lives.

Feelings Groups use word-free picture stories about real life from the Books Beyond Words series, encouraging children and young people to add their own words. The books tell a story. How children interpret the images depends upon their own life experience.

Pictures are often better than words to tell stories about relationships, especially when things are going wrong. The pictures encourage children to use their own words and lived experience to explain what they think is happening.

Over time, the children start to speak about their own lives and not the characters. They begin to relate the stories to themselves. The children develop the emotional vocabulary to express how they feel. These groups are a safe place where children who have suffered trauma learn they are not alone. They can talk about their fears, worries and confusions without being judged. Gradually they learn to show empathy for each other as they understand each other’s fears too.

As one young person explained:

“The Feelings group is important, because it has helped me and many of my friends through hard times in our lives - by giving us a safe place to talk about our thoughts and feelings. My wellbeing has increased immensely.” Feelings Groups are already making a huge difference to children in primary schools in South Yorkshire. Now we want to share how Feelings groups work to support the mental

wellbeing of children and young people of all abilities right across the country. We will support teachers, teaching assistants and mental health leads every step of the way.

Written by Professor Sheila Baroness Hollins, FRCPsych, FRCPCH

Contact Beyond Words by emailing or visit our website to find out more.


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