A new children's book, 'My Dad built me the best and wackiest cubby ever' is a timely and compassionate story about a child and father navigating the dad's mental health struggles, and was inspired by the author's own lived experience.
Dr Monika Schott, who had to explain to her young children the strange and sometimes scary behaviour they were witnessing in their family members with poor mental health, set about writing the heart-warming chapter book as a way for young children to explore mental illness and mental health, and alleviate the fear and stigma that often comes with it.
"The story came from what I've experienced with my family around mental health and having my brother get through some tough mental health challenges. I started writing the story more than twelve years ago when l had to try to explain to my children what they were witnessing. There were no resources around at the time to help me and I had to figure out how to explain to them what a psychotic episode was," says Monika.
Told through the eyes of a child, the book 'My Dad built me the best and wackiest cubby ever' tells the touching story of a child and father setting out to build a cubbyhouse under streaming sunshine, until clouds snake in on a hazing horizon… skies swell, a clouding storm brews and finally breaks and swirls into pouring rains and eventually subsides. All the while, the cubby grows wackier, with the rustiest of riches that rattle and rule! This is all a metaphor for the father's mental ill health that gently aligns with the building of the cubby, and changing emotions and weather.
For parents and carers, the book will provide guidance on how to talk to children about mental illness, a subject which is often difficult for even adults to understand. For children, not only is it a tender story about a father and child and their cubbyhouse, but it offers a simple way for kids to learn about mental illness in a way that they will understand.
It is a gentle interpretation of what Monika observed within her own family, and is ideal for children aged 5-12 years.
Leading psychiatrist and professor of Youth Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and Director of Victoria's Orygen Youth Health and Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, Professor Pat McGorry AO launched Monika's book and said "as a parent, I wish I had this book many years ago."
"There is still a lot of stigma around mental illness but things are definitely getting better. Twenty years ago, we wouldn't have seen a book like this. But every one of us will have somebody in our family that will suffer from periods of poor mental health, and Monika's book is a way for younger children to learn about mental illness in a very optimistic and positive way," he said.
According to the Australian Psychological Society, in 2022, children aged 6-12 years showed a sharp rise in mental illnesses, with some of the largest increases including Social Anxiety Disorder (45%) and ADHD (42%).
"It's my hope that the book can go some way in helping to give children, families and carers new understanding about mental health, belief that even in grey and darkness, there is always hope and magic that's only covered over," says Monika.
The chapter book is accompanied by resources for teachers, carers and families to draw upon, and is available in full-colour or black and white, as a paperback or E-book.
My Dad built me the best and wackiest cubby ever
Available via Amazon, Booktopia, Barnes & Noble and other e-retailers or direct from Monika Schott at www.monikaschott.com/monika-schott for $25.00 (colour paperback) or $15.00 (black and white).