The power of drama in helping express yourself

“Express yourself” is the topic of Children’s Mental Health Week this year, pertinent in the context of the pandemic, which has had a huge and potentially life-changing impact on many children and young people. Yet their voices have been muted throughout.

“KidsTime is a wonderful place to go and you can express your feelings.”

I am feeling particularly engaged and inspired by this year’s theme, as it focuses on what young people have to say, and encourages creative expression – and what better way to express yourself than through drama?

Drama has always been at the heart of the KidsTime approach.  The KidsTime Workshops use drama to help children and young people to engage with the topic of mental illness and make sense of their situation, and to enable them to communicate their thoughts, feelings and experiences without feeling exposed.  Through creating stories and characters that focus on general aspects of mental illness, young people can explore their experiences from a distance and experiment with alternative narratives and perspectives – giving them a sense of hope and control over their situation.  The dramas are also useful in communicating important messages from the young people to both adults and their peers, and are owned by the young people collectively which feels safe and empowering.

“It’s good, because we get to play games, and parents get to go upstairs, and we get to stay downstairs and have some fun.”

More importantly, it’s fun! Children of parents with a mental illness might feel stressed or anxious, so the games and drama at the KidsTime Workshops allow them to temporarily forget their worries and play.  The drama work facilitates a playful attitude and relaxed, light-hearted atmosphere, and in this way, strikes the delicate balance between the serious and the playful:

“KidsTime is a good place to go because you get to play games, run about, have fun and have pizza.”

I’m looking forward to hearing from our young people this month, and would like to ask them:

What’s one thing they wish everyone knew and that they didn’t have to explain?

We hope this simple question will help them to express how they feel and open the potential for positive dialogue together with their families.

Testimonies from young children from the KidsTime Workshops