Suffolk Mind has launched a crowdfunding appeal on World Book Day (Thursday 4th March
2021) to fund the creation of a book, based around the benefits of exercise on mental
health, to be given to every Reception aged child (four-to-five-years-old) in Suffolk.
Movement and exercise makes the heart and body strong and healthy, but it also burns off
harmful stress hormones to stop them damaging children’s brains when they are at their most
vulnerable. Figures show that 35% of children and young people said their mental health had
got worse during the Covid-19 pandemic, so the need to make the link between movement
and brain health is more important than ever.
Ezra Hewing, Head of Education at Suffolk Mind, tells a tale in Suffolk Mind’s EARLY Minds
primary school’s training of a Sea Squirt called Sammy who moves with ocean friends to
look after their memory and emotions. Supported by Suffolk’s Most Active County
programme, this tale has now been turned into a picture book. A local children’s illustrator
has brought the characters to life, and Public Health Suffolk are organising its distribution to
school children across the county.
Ezra said: “This is such an important project, to ensure that children from a young
age know the benefits of exercise on their mental health. We want children to learn the
skills to be emotionally resilient as they continue to grow into adulthood.
“Nobody wants their child to experience poor mental or physical health. But what can parents
and carers do to protect their child? How can they support them to grow up to be positive and
emotionally resilient adults?
“We’re appealing to parents, grandparents, businesses and anyone else who has an interest
in our children’s future, to help us fund the book to give to every four-to-five-year-old in
Suffolk. The story has been written and the characters have been created, now all we need
is the support of our local community to be able to publish more than 8,000 copies.”
Dennis Stevenson, Suffolk Mind patron and former Chairman of Pearson Plc, is supporting
the campaign. He said: “Having been involved at a national level in mental health policy, I
know how important it is that we educate our children and young people about how they
can stay well.
“What Suffolk Mind has done is to use an entertaining and engaging story about a sea squirt
to make a serious point about the relationship between movement and mental health. I’ve
made a contribution towards this crucial project and hope others will follow suit – donating
whatever they can afford – to try and get this book into the sticky hands of as many four-to-five-year-olds as possible.”
Prior to the pandemic, figures showed that three in five young people (11-19 years of age)
had either experienced a mental health problem themselves, or were close to someone who
had and half of all mental health problems had been established by the age of 14, rising
to 75% by the age of 24.
Research from the University of Essex published in 2018 showed that the decrease in
childhood fitness in the past two decades has been so great, the least fit child in a class of
30 tested in 1998 would be among the five fittest in a class of 30 children tested today.
Cllr James Reeder, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health and
Prevention, said: “We know that physical activity helps children to build strong muscles and
bones, helps build their confidence, improves their ability to learn and helps maintain their
mental and emotional wellbeing.
“Suffolk’s Most Active County campaign is therefore delighted to endorse the Suffolk Mind
crowdfunding appeal for the ‘Sammy the Sea Squirt’ book, which will provide parents with
an exciting and engaging way of talking to their children about the importance of
movement, through storytelling.
“It would be wonderful if we could provide a Sammy the Sea Squirt book for every four-to-five-year-old in Suffolk. Please do support it if you can. Together we can give Suffolk’s children the best start in life.”
Emma Graham the Illustrator working on the project said: “It is wonderful to be asked to
work on such an important project. I love illustrating children’s books, and bringing Sammy
and friends to life from Ezra’s story has been fun. I look forward to creating the finished
illustrations and book, as I know Sammy’s story will encourage children to move, exercise
and have fun, and keep their brains healthy too.”