Children’s author pens book inspired by loss of sister to mental illness

The author of a children’s book inspired by the loss of her sister to mental illness has said she hopes it helps youngsters to understand “it’s OK not to be OK”.

Esther Marshall wrote the follow-up to her first book – Sophie Says I Can, I Will, which was championed by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – after the death of her sister in January while she was caring for her young son and scrolling through social media alone at night.

She told the PA news agency: “After we lost my sister I couldn’t sleep and I wrote this book in the week after I lost her.

“I want children, young children, to know that it’s OK not to be OK, to talk about their feelings, to understand what their feelings mean, to understand what a good support network around you looks like and who you can rely on and who you shouldn’t.

“It just flowed from the conversations that I had with my sister when she was feeling down, of what she wished she would have known when she was younger, and what she would like to tell young children.”

She added: “This was kind of my grieving process and feeling like she was with me the whole time, so it’s been really cathartic and I think it’s a message that everybody so desperately needs at the moment.

“I always campaigned and fought for mental health and to get rid of the stigma, but more than ever at the moment, with the most uncertainty we have ever had, it’s just absolutely vital that children know it as well.”

Marshall said she uses rainbows throughout the book as a reference to the rainbow her family saw on the day her sister died, and many of the messages in the book are references to conversations they had.

She added: “If I ever got the chance to stand face-to-face with any politician I would look them in the eye and say, ‘This is the global pandemic, mental health is the global pandemic’.

“We are going to lose so many people to it. Or the NHS is going to have so much more pressure put on it because of this and it’s already struggling, and its affecting everybody, and there isn’t a word for more than urgent but if there was, it would be, it’s a crisis.”

Sophie Says It’s Okay Not To Be Okay is available now. For more information visit and @sophiesaysofficial on Instagram.