By Jackie Buckle
When I finished Half my Facebook Friends are Ferrets, the main character, Josh, had left school and was generally a lot happier. It felt like I could wish him a fond farewell and move onto protagonists new. But then I started wondering about Josh and his friends and I kept thinking about all the things young people, including my own daughters, go through during their teens. I decided that Josh had a lot more to share and so, deep-fried potato snacks on standby, I began working on the sequel: My Smoky Bacon Crisp Obsession.
There’s a lot in the news today about young people and mental health, and rightly so. This is an area that has been woefully neglected in the past. For example, I realise now, that when I was growing up in the seventies and eighties I was often in a state of high anxiety. I would do almost anything to get out of going to school – Including, one memorable time, boarding a ferry to the Isle of Wight with a much older boy I barely knew (not recommended). Back then, I just didn’t feel I could tell anyone, not even my mum. I didn’t know of any others who felt anxious and so came to the conclusion that I was just weird.
Thirty years on, anxiety and depression are much more out in the open but still very hard for the sufferer to cope with. Experiences in my family and with friends have shown me this at painfully close quarters. So, having been lucky enough to find a wonderful publisher, I wanted to bring this into my writing, to normalise it a little and to help people who are dealing with these issues realise they are not alone. After all, more than 850,000 children and young people in the UK have been diagnosed with a mental health condition.1 And that’s just the ones we know about.
These are upsetting issues but I didn’t want the book to be too dark. I think humour can make a lot of tough things much easier to handle. A little illustration of this happened recently when someone told me about an anxiety attack they had had on a bus. The only way they could think of dealing with it at the time was through distracting themselves by eating and so they began madly ripping open packets of cheese, biscuits, ham and anything else they had in their shopping. Apparently the looks they got from fellow passengers were priceless. That actually happened about fifty years ago and was told to me by a relative who is now in her eighties. This was the first time she’d told anyone about her life-long anxiety problems. I am happy to say, however, that she managed to have a really good chuckle over it now.
If my book can help anyone, even in the smallest way, with any of these issues I will be very happy and I am proud to donate a percentage of the royalties to Young Minds, a brilliant charity who are doing lots to help young people with mental health problems.
1: Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk/