Opinions on ISPCC HEADBomz video from Child Mental Health Experts

Opinions on ISPCC HEADBomz video from Child Mental Health Experts

Many people have asked over the last 3 weeks, how did the HEADBomz video get approved? Were any Child Mental Health Professionals involved? Who were they? How could they? What on earth are the ISPCC thinking?
The official information from the ISPCC – states that they did research to ascertain that children’s mental health is an issue that needs addressing. After they made the video with Aardman Animations, funded by Vodafone Foundation Ireland, they said,

 we tested these campaign ideas with four experts – two school principals, one urban and one rural – and two child psychologists – a clinical psychologist in Limerick and an educational psychologist in Dublin.
The feedback from this research was that a campaign like Headbomz would promote a culture around the importance of resilience within our children and that it was important that we speak to children of this age in a way that they would find entertaining.

The ISPCC will not release the names of these professionals for obvious reasons.

So it is interesting that the opinions of every single Mental Health Professional who has commented below, differ so greatly. Especially as these are all specialists in working with children. 

Most child mental health professionals who have seen the video take less than 2 minutes (the time it takes to watch the full version) to know what they think : while there may be some appeal in it for some robust children, this video is NOT OK for certain groups of children.

The comments below are just a few of those that have been shared online. They are taken from Twitter / article – HEADBOMZ – the Talking campaign that made me talk and need to say THIS / article –  DEAR HEADBomz ~ when will I stop seeing exploding heads?
I know there are many more in closed FaceBook groups. AS you can see – feeling among this group of professionals is strong!
With all this extra FREE feedback from child experts, it is nothing but puzzling to me why the ISPCC is still choosing to ignore these qualified, experienced, professional voices, and choosing to keep the advert live and being played extensively across TV, YouTube, Cinema as well encouraging it’s use in schools.
The HEADBomz video is causing distress and harm to certain children, and the professionals speaking out below are not OK with that.

Professional opinions on HEADBomz advert

As a Clinical Child Psychologist, it is distasteful, upsetting & degrading children’s very REAL issues Dr. Malie Coyne 🕊 (@MalieCoyne)

If even one child reports being disturbed by this, as a Clinical Child Psychologist that is enough evidence to STOP its’ use immediately. Dr. Malie Coyne 🕊 (@MalieCoyne)

An outrageously horrid song and video! I feel sickened and sad that this has been released by a reputable organisation such as ISPCC and really never want to see it again. Please ISPCC reconsider your position on using this material!
Dr Lynne Souter-Anderson, M.Ed, B.Ed, Doctor in Psychotherapy. MBACP (Senior Accredited). Director Bridging Creative Therapies Consultancy

I read your blogs with real interest. I have been unaware of this video’s release, and sadly for me it is another in a line of disparities between what is thought to be beneficial in raising awareness and support for mental health in children and young people, and what is actually useful….
As a professional and as a parent I would always support organisations seeking to raise awareness around the very real difficulties our young people are facing. However it does seem as if there has not been sufficient consideration of the impact on a particular population of children; those that the film ultimately seeks to help.
Certainly a blanket refusal to engage in open dialogue around even the way the video is circulated and presented is significant cause for concern.
‘Talking makes us stronger’ is an important message and whilst it is not the only one pertinent here, perhaps ISPCC Childline would benefit somewhat in following their own advice….and acknowledge that a positive response to talking also requires effective listening.
Dr Katy Farrell-Wright
Highly Specialised Clinical Psychologist.
(BsC, PGDip, DClinPsych)

I am curious to know why the ISPCC refuses to withdraw the video? Is it down to pride, cost, stubbornness or something else?
It also concerns me that the ISPCC aren’t interested. Does this just illustrate their lack of understanding of how some children struggle? Are they willing to open any form of dialogue over this issue or are they just not listening?
Surely they should be thinking of the CHILD first. And if their reasoning is that lots of type 1 children will benefit from it then can’t they compromise and remove this from universal viewing through TV, YouTube and cinema. Allowing the material just to go into a restricted environment, e.g. a school, where well informed Principals and school teams can decide how and if to show it would be less harmful. With the correct support and guidance for staff of course. Not ideal – but a step forward from their stance at the moment…
I am angry and disappointed that children, who are already struggling, will find life even more confusing or scary after watching this. And the ISPCC seem to be sitting back and allowing it to continue. It seems to contradict the title of their organisation!

I agree wholehearted with this article. The video is awful and I can’t image what idiots, with or without child therapy experience, approved it. I hope it was made by a marketing company, i get that, (words fail me if it was a therapist or assistant psychologist) but who signed this awful blunder off? Do the right think and remove it before it drives more children to experience anxiety.
Lorraine Debnam: Retired Psychotherapist, CAMHS

Working as a clinical psychologist, I applaud the idea of using child friendly ads to raise awareness of this area and encourage children to think and talk about ways to improve their mental health. However I find some of the content of this video disturbing and am very concerned that watching it may do more harm than good for particular groups of vulnerable children. I would encourage young people, parents and professionals who have concerns about this ad to raise them with the ISPCC.
Sally Ferris : ClinPsych, ASD Specialist

I lead a large primary school. Over the last few years I have taken action to ensure all of my staff team are trained in being aware of supporting our children who have experienced trauma. There are lots of them in every school.
I believe this video is inappropriate, ill thought out, potentially harmful and also demeaning to so many children that we are trying to protect, support and nurture on their journey towards health.
It may be a high quality video clip which, to some, seems light hearted and funny leading to perhaps a few children being encouraged to talk to someone. (Although I question the approach when the options for a child are for their head to explode in front of everyone or talk to someone instead. A fear-based motive for speaking out doesn’t seem to be a healthy approach for any child.)
However I feel the video diminishes the difficulties that so many children face when they have experienced trauma and feel unable to speak out about what they have been, or are still going through.
I would NEVER allow it to be used in my school as I can imagine how harmful it could be to certain children.
I am totally outraged, but also saddened and disappointed, that an organisation like the ISPCC is behind something which has the potential to cause harm to a child.
Ruth T

This video needs to be banned straight away. It is damaging and highly inappropriate.
Hannah Bridge MBAPT, MBACP

This is a dreadful video and I am concerned for all children who see it – especially children who struggle emotionally. I think it should be withdrawn.
Eileen Prendiville. E.C.P., S.I.A.H.I.P., S.I.A.P.T.P., R.N.M.H. Director Children’s Therapy Centre, Co. Westmeath.
We believe that  this is a topic that needs to be treated with great care and unfortunately we feel this has not happened.  We find that it could in fact be very damaging for certain children in that age group to watch.
 By showing it on TV, cinemas and YouTube, many younger children will also see it which can be frightening and defeat the total purpose of this (video) campaign. It conveys a ‘talk or else’ fear based message which we cannot support. We also wonder about the credentials and competencies  of the ‘child experts’ (who were consulted in the process) and who rated this campaign highly? 
In summary PTI  highly recommends that this campaign is withdrawn as soon as possible.
Monika Jephcott, President PTI. Play Therapy International.

Actually feeling sick after watching that. Shocking! I am a play therapist in Galway and work with a lot of children with anxiety. This clip feels quite threatening- if you don’t talk your head will explode! What an awful message to be giving children.
Linsey McNelis. Play Therapy Galway.

I am a play therapist and project worker in a marginalised community in Dublin. Both personally and professionally it is my opinion that this campaign is incredibly ill informed and insensitive. Aside from ‘talking about’ anxiety and mental health problems being difficult for adults never mind children, the actual content of this video is anxiety provoking and rather distressing to watch. It’s great to bring awareness to youth mental health but unfortunately this approach I feel will have the opposite effect on the target audience than what’s intended.
Jennie Fitzpatrick. Dip Play Therapy
Furious! Whoever decided that signing this off to roll out for professionals to use when they are working with children is insane and clearly doesn’t understand trauma and anxiety. They have neither experienced it themselves, nor do they have any real understanding of how to recognise it in the very individuals they are supposedly trying to help. This is a shocking and disgraceful clip that must not be shown to children struggling with anxiety issues, it is clearly sending out the wrong message which will set them back further, it’s too graphic and the language used is equally appalling. I hope the powers that be reflect on their choice after viewing everyone’s comments and withdraw the clip from circulation.
Michelle. Teaching Assistant

It is good that children’s mental health is being taken seriously now and there seems to be a growing understanding that stress and anxiety can have a big impact on children. It is a good thing that childline and ISPCC are supporting this campaign of raising awareness. However this video is not the way to do it. Children need to understand that anxiety feelings can be helped by expressing their thoughts, feelings and experiences through talking, creativity & play. To tell children their head will explode is not necessary and a lie. They may get the feeling their head is about to explode but this, as we know as adults, is different entirely. The video reinforces to an already anxious and traumatised child that if they don’t talk something bad will happen, like their head exploding! It’s an awful video and needs to be taken down and re thought.
Cara Cramp MA, MBACP (reg.)
Child & Adolescent Therapist, specialising in play & creative arts therapy.
Very disappointed in Childline for signing off on this. They had a huge opportunity here to really do right by anxious children by use of the media and they failed. It is being shown across the country, every time a child goes to watch a YouTube video they are being forced to watch it before their chosen video is played. As a Play Therapist in Ireland I feel sad to have seen this video. Sad for anxious children to know have another worry that their head might explode.
Anne-marie O’Riordan. Play Therapist PGDip. Play Therapy Wicklow
Well done Claire, You have really captured how awful it must be for a child in group 2 seeing this video. I think it’s really important that all childcare and mental health professionals in Ireland back you up and try to get the ISPCC to listen to us.
Linsey McNelis. BA Hons, H DipPsych, PGDip

I totally agree with everything you have said. As a Play Therapist I was horrified when I saw the video. I can see it really making anxiety worse for many children. Thanks for taking the time to write this excellent piece.
Hilary McFaul. Dip Play Therapy

I am a trainee play therapist & have an anxious daughter. I can see her reaction to this and anticipate the nightmares as she thinks her worries will cause her head to explode.
Sian, Play Therapy Student

I cannot believe that this video is being used to attempt to ‘support’ children. It appears to do the complete opposite by making fun of their pain, and then creating anxiety inducing images for their wonderful young minds to ‘mull over’.
Annie, Play Therapy Diploma Student

PLEASE FEEL FREE to share this with your community. 

Working with Children and Dogs -1 : Big for their age

Working with Children and Dogs -1 : Big for their age

SO many of you will already know that after 10 years of continuous work as a children’s therapist, often working with very complex cases, I have been on a sabbatical from my direct clinical work. Have I been sitting around twiddling thumbs for the last year? Umm No. Much of the advisory, consultancy and training work has continued (albeit at a slower pace).

HOWEVER, I knew the lack of contact time with children would leave me some space mentally and emotionally… so for the last year I have been volunteering as a Puppy Socialiser for Dogs for Good. They are a fantastic charity training assistance dogs to help change peoples lives. I totally love what they are about, and although puppies are obviously gorgeous, I thought long and hard before getting involved as socialising a puppy is like long-term fostering…

My time with Hinton is not over yet, but already I have learnt so much about how to help puppies learn, grow and thrive in a way that feeds their body and soul. So much of what I have learnt about working with dogs has resonated with me as it is from the same philosophy I have been working from when working with children over all these years.

This is the first in a series of short videos (I don’t know how many more there will be yet – it largely depends on what you think of them!). I will share some of the insights I have around the similarities of working with dogs and children.

Hinton is big for his age. So are many children. And even those who are physically similar to their peers, may not be at the same emotional age. Have a watch and see what you think.

  • Have you come across this before?
  • Do you know children who struggle with being expected to be more mature than they are because of their size?
  • Do you know how to respond to a child who seems to not be as emotionally developed as they are physically?
  • I’d love to hear what you think about this – I think it happens more than we think. So let’s get the conversation going – feel free to scroll right down and comment below. 

Also feel free to pass it on to anyone you know who might be helped by this in anyway. Hinton loves helping people… share his story and do let him know if he made a difference 😉

… And if you want to read another blog about this concept of physical and emotional age not correlating and one reason behind it, and what it looked like for a child I worked with then click here.  
Until next time… x