As you well know, students today struggle with serious mental health challenges, ranging from anxiety and severe depression to suicidal ideation. According to a report by Educational Week, ‘’Rates of sadness and hopelessness among adolescents were climbing before the pandemic. But the isolation from social distancing and disrupted schooling and routines took a sledgehammer to students’ mental and emotional well-being.’’ Add to this the stress from school shootings and global warming, and we have tsunamis of anxiety that needs to be allayed.
In your search for ways to aid students with emotional problems school guidance and mental health specialists -- as well as parents -- may find it useful to encourage youngsters to express what is in them through creating comic strip stories about their troubling issues. Comic strips can be a useful way to communicate one’s fears and concerns, as well as joys.
Looking back at my own life, growing up in a family with much emotional and financial strife, I wish that back then I had had a way to express some of the fear and turmoil I felt. What helped me escape family turmoil, in part, was reading newspaper comic strips and entering their happier worlds, and I would lose myself through the writing assignments given by my teachers. Writing and drawing were ways to harness some of the chaos and negative energy I felt, particularly when my father died so young and left me feeling abandoned.
MakeBeliefsComix can provide help to young students. Educational and behavioral therapists who work with autistic, troubled or traumatized children have found that encouraging their young patients to create comics or write on our hundreds of printables are useful ways to help them articulate what’s on their minds. (See https://makebeliefscomix.com/special-needs/autism/)
I hope you will find these resources helpful and offer us feedback on what works or doesn’t work for your students. We want to improve and welcome all constructive suggestions in our ongoing efforts to help young people. Thank you.
Topics to explore!
Here follow some topics students can explore in their comic strips as they choose one of the many comic characters as their surrogates to represent them and answer the writing prompts as they fill in speech or thought balloons for the character – they can use our digital comic strip creator, MakeBeliefsComix, or draw by hand their own comics. The comic creation page is at: https://makebeliefscomix.com/Comix/
First, some advice: Comics created around the themes that follow are personal and should be shared only with school counselors or therapists, not to classes as a whole. Let a student choose the one prompt that resonates with them. I wish someone had asked me some of these questions when I was young so I wouldn’t have had to keep all the pain inside me.
- Would you like to change something about yourself? In what way?
- What two things are you grateful for today?
- Who or what in your life makes you feel safest, and how?
- If you had the power to change the world, what would you do?
- Is there something you want to talk about?
- Whom do you eat lunch with? What do you talk about?
- I confront the sorrow I feel
- Do you feel pressured or stressed? By what?
- Does your family understand you?
- Do you sometimes feel you wish you weren’t alive or want to hurt yourself in some way? Do you think about death? How?
- What keeps you awake at night?
- What is one positive action you could take during the week to improve your mental health?
- What makes you feel sad?
- How much bullying goes on at school?
- What makes you feel stressed the most?
- What gives you joy?
- What do you most wish was different?
- What’s your biggest challenge right now?
- When do you feel angry?
- How do you feel about yourself?
- Do you feel safe at school?
- If you could complete any goal throughout the year, what would it be?
- Hard question: What difference are you making to others or the world each day?
- What is your dream?
- What makes you happy?
- What brings you down or makes you feel blue?
- A comic in which you practice the questions or main points you want to pose to your therapist or social worker.
More Comic Strip Topics
Is there a comic strip about the time you were cyberbullied or were part of an online hate incident which changed your life, or someone else's, and how you felt about yourself.
A comic in which you reveal something important you'd like to tell a parent or relative but which you are too frightened or ashamed to do?
Create a comic about the feeling of hurt or shame you have not been able to share.
Have you experienced sexual abuse or violence? Do you want to write about it?
A comic strip about the times you have self doubt or do self-blaming about something outside your control.
People think of you as a cheerful, smiling person, but underneath the surface you may be differently. If so, in what way?
Ready to create a comic about body image, who you are and how you want to be?
A comic about feeling unsafe?
Your feelings about the police
Try Our Printables!
In addition, MakeBeliefsComix offers hundreds of interactive printables to help students explore feelings. Some of these printables can be found under the categories of Feelings, Hopes, Fears, About You, Dreams, Emotional Intelligence, Grief & Healing, Play Therapy, Self Esteem, and our newest category SMILES.
The latter category was developed in 2022 as part of a special series known as ''MakeBeliefs 2 Help U Smile & Feel J_Y.'' They are created to provide comfort and hope to young and old who are feeling distressed and anxious in our too fast-changing world. Many of the printables, too, have been used to aid child trauma victims who because of war or famine, or persecution have had to flee with their families to new lands in order to survive.
One teacher who worked with Syrian children who escaped with their parents to Germany describes how a 12-year-old refugee girl responded to a printable that asked, ‘’Make believe you could wave a magic wand. What two wishes would come true?” The girl, she said, expressed the wish to be a rabbit instead of a human and exchange her position with this creature in order to be able to experience another life other than her former self. She wrote on the printable in the new German language she is learning.
Try Our Interactive E-Books
Another useful MakeBeliefs resource to help students express themselves is our wide range of interactive e-journals in which they can respond to the many writing prompts by using their digital device to write directly in the books’ pages. Among those are: Hummingbird Joy: A Book of All the Things That Make You Happy (daily gratitudes); Words I Wish Someone Had Said to Me As a Kid; A Book of Questions to Keep Thoughts and Feelings; Plant Your Dream Seeds: Writing to Grow Hope in Your Life; Fraidy Cats’ Book of Courage; A Sweet, Kind Book, and Writing to Remember Moments of Awe in Your Life. Each of these books can be found at: https://makebeliefscomix.com/journaling-e-books/ Just click on a book’s cover to download and write in them.