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Homes Under the Hammer’s Martin Roberts launches new initiative to aid children’s mental wellbeing

TV personality Martin Roberts has joined the fight against childhood mental health anguish exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic by providing free support to every primary school in the UK. 

Commencing Monday 5th October, ahead of World Mental Health Day on 10th October, the Sadsville Campaign will provide all 22,500 of Britain’s primary schools with materials and guidance on how to help protect children’s mental health. Each school will receive two copies of a special ‘Teaching Version’ of Sadsville, a book written by Martin Roberts, which along with the original story, includes resources, teaching materials and a lesson or assembly plan which help improve children’s resilience and mental wellbeing.

In addition, every public library in the UK will receive a copy, allowing parents to access a physical version of the book alongside online and read-along versions and home study materials. Research carried out by The Martin Roberts Foundation found that reading Sadsville had a very significant positive impact on children’s mental well being, with 71% of children saying they  felt “Better able to cope with Sadness” after reading Sadsville, and 76% saying they’d now know how to contact Childline and NSPCC for support if they needed it*.

Recent research from Oxford University and the NSPCC has highlighted how the lockdown arising from the Covid-19 pandemic has affected children, key findings include:

  • Primary school-aged children were most likely to seriously suffer from lockdown, with mean increases in emotional, behavioural and restlessness/inattention difficulties**
  • The proportion of children likely to have significant difficulties (i.e., meet diagnostic criteria for a clinical diagnosis) in these 3 areas also increased, by up to 35% in primary school children**
  • Calls into the NSPCC’s helpline increased by almost a third (32%) during lockdown on average, compared to the three months prior to lockdown – with May seeing the highest number made to the NSPCC helpline in a single month on record***
  • In July, Childline revealed the service had delivered 22,000 counselling sessions to young people about mental health and well-being since the lockdown, including almost 2,000 with 11-year olds and under****

Martin Roberts said: “I have my own kids aged 10 and 13 so I understand the pressures that lockdown has put on young people, and felt moved to try to help highlight and find solutions to the issues that have been caused by Covid-19, as well as those which the NSPCC and their Childline service deal with on a daily basis.”new initiative to aid children's mental wellbeing

As part of the campaign, every primary school in the UK will be given two free copies of the ‘Teaching Version’ of the Sadsville book, which includes specially written teaching materials, enabling schools to provide children with the means of understanding their emotions better, and where to find help should they need it. Sadsville directs such pupils to the NSPCC’s Childline service – a free, private and confidential service where children can talk to trained counsellors about anything that may be worrying them. Children can contact Childline on 0800 111 or www.childline.org.uk.

Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, said: “The pandemic has had a significant impact on the lives of children, particularly for those where home is not a safe place. At Childline we have heard from thousands of young people about how the combination of the lockdown, the closure of schools and the lack of contact with friends and family has impacted on their mental health. 

“The Sadsville book’s message is so important. No child should have to cope alone and Childline is here for them. I’m sure it will mean more young people know where to turn to for help.”

Best known for his 17 years hosting BBC TV property auction show Homes Under the Hammer, Martin Roberts is also an established children’s book author and originally wrote Sadsville to support the invaluable work carried out by the NSPCC and Childline. 

The book forms part of the campaign to help children’s mental wellbeing that is the mainstay of the authors own charity  The Martin Roberts Foundation which aims to give a free copy of the original Sadsville  book to every child in year 4 (8 & 9 year olds) in the UK. So far over 30,000 books have been distributed, with more to come. 

Martin Roberts added: “Sadsville is a magical and whimsical story aimed at children aged 6 to 10, based in a land where everyone is always sad – and the reader has to work out why. The book encourages children to question their own emotions and ‘think outside the box’ as to why they may be struggling with unhappiness. It helps them find ways to feel happier and to reach out for support if they need it.”

The book has already received acclaim from children, teachers and senior academics alike, with Headteachers commenting on how the book “encourages important discussion” and suggesting to fellow teachers that they should “without doubt, get involved with this project.” 

Elaine Fox, Professor of Psychology & Affective science at Oxford University, commented: “Sadsville helps children to break a toxic cycle of negative thought by getting them to think about sadness in a unique way, providing them with a platform to challenge the negative gremlins in their heads and to realise that the gremlins are just that – gremlins – and not a true reflection of reality.”

Martin has enlisted the support of stars from film and TV for the project, including legendary children’s entertainer and all-round good fox, Basil Brush, who has recorded a charming narrated and partially animated version of Sadsville, which is available on YouTube for general viewing. A video of many other celebrities reading from the book will be available in the near future.

Basil Brush said: “It was a booming pleasure to be part of Mr Martin’s wonderful book, to read his lovely story and help the NSPCC and their Childline service at the same time. The illustrations are perfect, but for some reason I felt peckish at the end… you’ll know why when you read it… It might even bring a tear to your eye…”.

The book is supported by ground-breaking digital technology from Auris Tech, that will provide all children with access to a free digital read-along version of the book for their tablets on their platform Fonetti.

Kim Antoniou, CEO/Founder, AurisTech/Fonetti, said: “We are delighted to support The Martin Roberts Foundation and their ambition to get a copy of Sadsville into the hands of as many children as possible. Auris Tech providing Sadsville for free on the Fonetti app means that we help them achieve their ambition with copies of the digital interactive read-along version available to whoever wants them.”

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