Wallace And Gromit makers and university academics launch mental health campaign

Megan Baynes, PA

The makers of Wallace And Gromit have joined forces with a group of academics to launch a new mental wellbeing campaign.

Award-winning independent studio Aardman Animations has worked with Loughborough University’s Storytelling Academy and a team of researchers to create the ‘What’s up with everyone campaign’, which features a series of films that look at mental health issues in young people.

Five animated characters deal with loneliness, perfectionism, competitiveness, independence, and social media – five of the most common issues negatively impacting young people, according to the campaign’s research.

Daniel Binns, animation director at Aardman Animations, said: “We wanted to create content that could come up on someone’s social media and elicit the response ‘I know that feeling’.

“We want people watching them to see a little of themselves in the characters and their stories and that be the start of thinking about how they feel or cope and how it could be better.

“What really sets this project apart is that it’s been co-created with young people at every step.

“Their input alongside those of our experts has been invaluable and enlightening, enabling us to craft authentic and effective resources that can make a genuinely positive impact.”

The partnership – which also involves the London School of Economics and Political Science, charity Happy Space, and young people’s mental health expert Dr Dominique Thompson – comes amid an increased focus on youth mental wellbeing.

An NHS survey from October 2020 found one in six children and young people had a probable mental health disorder in July 2020, compared with one in nine in 2017.

The Office for National Statistics also found that more than half of all students at university (57%) reported a worsening in their mental health and wellbeing since the start of the autumn term in 2020.

Loughborough’s Storytelling Academy led on the research, hosting a series of workshops with people aged between 17 and 24. The group hopes to hold another series at a later date to evaluate the impact of the campaign.

Professor Michael Wilson said: “This unique collaboration between ourselves and experts in mental health and animation allows us to develop our work in exciting new ways around creating agency for individuals through using storytelling to improve mental health literacy.”

The collaborative project, led by the University of Nottingham, was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

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