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The front cover of Worry Kits developed by young people

Hand over your worries

Earlier this year, a group of young people from Liberty Consortium transition services decided to do something a bit different, and started looking at ways to help other children and young people.

The boxes for worry kits developed by young people

With the help of Social Inclusion Manager Gavin, they developed The Worry Kit, a special box of tools and tips to help children and young people manage their feelings of anxiety.

Young people with disabilities are at a greater risk of social exclusion, marginalisation and isolation. They can feel they are not being listened to, and can find it difficult to do things that other young people their own age participate in.

Gavin, Social Inclusion Manager

BBC Children in Need funds Gavin’s role at Liberty Consortium, where he facilitates activities and opportunities to promote social inclusion and integration amongst the young people.

“They can be made to feel like they have no contribution to make, they can feel unsafe, bullied and excluded from decision making related to their own needs,” says Gavin. “Part of my role is also to provide disability awareness training to children and young people, to raise awareness of disability, and promote equality for all.”

“The Worry Kits were designed, developed and created by young people, for young people. All the young people who created The Worry Kits have a disability and they struggle with new situations and environments which leave them feeling uneasy, nervous or anxious.”

Fifteen young people in total worked together with Gavin to create the kits, hoping to make something that would reduce or release feelings of worry, stress or anxiety.

The front cover of Worry Kits developed by young people

“The majority of our group have autism,” explains one young person. “We find it difficult at times to deal with different situations and this can lead to us feeling a bit nervous or anxious.”

Before making the kits, the young people did lots of research into how anxiety affects children.

“They found out that a lot of children and young people worry about things like loud noises, starting school, going to new places, making new friends, things not going to plan or attending appointments,” says Gavin. “It increased their understanding of poor mental health within children and young people and gave them the drive to create the kits.”

It was decided that the kits would be designed to encourage conversations between young people and their family and friends, in a creative and interactive way.

“We felt like we wanted to help children and young people to become less stressed and worried with everyday things,” says one young person, “like going to the dentist, the doctors, going out for walks, starting a new school or joining a new club.”

One of the main parts of each kit is the book Hand over your worries, which was written and illustrated by the young people.

Young people proudly holding a Worry Kit they helped to develop

Hand over your worries tells the story of Wendy the Worrier,” explains Gavin. “It’s about how daily events can leave her feeling worried or nervous. Her friend Hank the Helper is there to listen and encourage Wendy to use The Worry Kit as a tool to help her.”

“When thinking about a story for our book, we worked as a group to come up with the perfect characters,” explains one young person. “We did multiple designs of what each character would look like, and learnt about alliteration. We agreed that if we used names with alliteration, this would make our characters easy to remember for the readers and make it catchier.”

“Children and young people can use their worry kits to try and deal with any anxiety or stress they may have, it’s also a great way for parents to open conversations with children about feeling worried or nervous.”

The kit also includes a wooden plaque with a cut out ‘helping hand’ which children can place their own hand onto when they are feeling worried or anxious. The young people designed the hand so it can be taken out as a keyring, accompanying children to school and other public places. Printed on the plaque is a short instruction, created by the young people, which reads:

Place your hands, count, 1, 2, 3, and leave your worries here with me.

“This project enabled the young people to be creative, to utilise their imagination and build their confidence in a variety of ways,” says Gavin. “It also provided them with the opportunity to speak about their own mental health, anxieties or stressful situations they face.”

Once the kits were created, the young people decided to have a go at selling them.

“The Worry Kits really shocked me,” says one young person, “as I only thought we would sell some of them, however they turned out really popular and we sold loads.”

“The young people sold over 300 Worry Kits within a two week period,” says Gavin. “One of the largest primary schools in Derry also purchased a worry kit for every classroom in the school.”

Feedback from parents also showed that children were taking their ‘helping hands’ to school with them and had started opening up to talk about what was making them feel nervous or anxious.

“As a group it gives us a sense of pride that we have provided a product that will help children and young people across the country,” says one young person.

“All the young people have developed a sense of achievement from producing these worry kits,” says Gavin, “helping themselves, and potentially many others too.”

Young people who helped develop Worry Kits
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