A NEW ANIMATION series, book and app have been launched to promote positive mental health among young people in Ireland.
The trio of resources was launched by youth website SpunOut.ie this week, in conjunction with the National Office for Suicide Prevention.
‘Ditch the Monkey’ is a five-part animation series that encourages people to let go of any negative thoughts that might be holding them back from living a happy, healthy life.
Eoin Duffy, who co-wrote and animated the series, told TheJournal.ie that he was “delighted to be involved in a campaign I could truly relate to and happier still to see the end result get such a positive response”.
Duffy noted that animation has greater potential than other forms of communication to reach people.
“I feel it’s easier for a viewer to superimpose themselves onto a generic, almost blank-canvas-styled cartoon character ahead of a live-action equivalent. As such, animation is a great tool when attempting to open up the viewer to situations, thoughts or feelings that they may not be fully aware of,” he said.
Each episode of ‘Ditch the Monkey’ centres on one of five ‘ways to wellness’: contribute, accept, be healthy, connect and be aware.
Ian Power, Executive Director of SpunOut.ie, noted: “If you can try to do a little bit of those five things you’re able to take care of your mental health.”
“We were overwhelmed with the reaction [to the series]. We knew we were making something that was special and we hoped everyone would agree – it seems like they do,” Power said.
The series will be broadcast in Irish cinemas throughout April, reaching more than 650,000 young people in the process.
A free app and book have also been launched to complement the animation. The MiYo (‘Mind Yourself’) app is a self-reflective journal where the user can log their daily activity in terms of interaction with others, healthy eating, hobbies, exercise and sleep.
Once the user completes an activity, they earn points that help them to reach certain goals. If a person is struggling in one of the areas being monitored, the app will direct them to relevant advice on SpunOut.ie.
MiYo was devised by a group of computer programmers aged 18-25 who attended a ‘hackathon’ at Facebook’s Dublin headquarters last October.
Power said: “We didn’t really know what was going to happen [at the hackathon]. We wanted to make mental health services on the site more accessible for young people.”
The SpunOut.ie Survival Guide To Life is a book aimed at helping 16 – 20 year olds to navigate issues experienced by young people in Ireland today such as mental health problems, exam stress, finding a job, sexual health, bullying and relationships.
Power said the guide will equip young people with the tools to “deal with situations as they happen, rather than letting them spiral into a crisis”.
Speaking about the projects, Gerry Raleigh, Director of the National Office for Suicide Prevention, said: “The NOSP is delighted to fund the SpunOut app, book and animation series that are providing young people with messages on the importance of looking after their mental health, which is essential especially at a time of year when their mental health can be challenged with exams, school and personal issues.”
Power added that the three initiatives have “resonated with people” as they share “universal messages … that we need to be constantly reminded of”.