Opening up through comic drawing

Rhiannon Mair Griffiths has battled with mental health issues for most of her life.

The 30-year-old social entrepreneur has a history of chronic illness and a complicated congenital heart condition.

When she was younger she regularly used to travel from her home in Aberystwyth to hospital in Liverpool three or four times a week and says the experience made it hard for her to fit in.

It was that experience that eventually led her to launch Liverpool-based Comics Youth CIC in 2015, where young people aged between eight and 25 can express themselves through comics.

Rhiannon said: “All the people on our board have had lived experience of mental ill-health. We created Comics Youth to catch those people who were falling through the gaps.

“We found comics a really progressive way to get young people to draw and write about the way they feel.

“Our aim is to empower youth across the Liverpool City Region to flourish from the margins of society and speak truth to power through having their voices heard.”

On average the organisation works with around 300 people a week, many of whom feel marginalised or have experienced mental health issues. They offer everything from comic book reading workshops to youth-led publishing hubs.

Rhiannon said they provide an opportunity for young people to get their work published or even take the first steps to a career as comic writers.

When Covid-19 struck they were forced to end all their face-to-face contact but saw 500 young people sign up to their online platforms.

Rhiannon explained: “There’s a crisis around the mental health of young people. We knew we couldn’t stop our services so we moved them online where we’re running a mix of creative activities, campaign work and outlets for young people to talk about mental health. We’ve kick-started a radio station, digital safe spaces platform and a 24/7 forum where young people can feel connected, stay safe and reach out for support.”

However at the same time they lost £54,000 in contract work so appealed for help from the Steve Morgan Foundation Covid-19 Emergency Fund and were awarded £8,723.

“That was a massive help,” said Rhiannon. “There’s still a massive gap in services for children and young people which is why our work is so important.

“We do lots of different things. For example next week some of our young people will be interviewing Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England, and the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance on how to make Covid-19 related information more accessible to young people.” 

Steve Morgan, founder of the Steve Morgan Foundation, said: “Mental health in young people is a really important issue and how to engage with them is absolutely key. The number of young people contacting Comics Youth tell you the job they’re doing and we were delighted to support them.”

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