MENTAL health can be a tricky subject even for adults to talk about.

And with one in eight children currently considered to have a diagnosable mental health condition, the pressure is on to find ways to help young people understand mental health, let alone talk about it.

But a production by a local theatre company is aiming to do just that in its tour of 22 North East schools, which has just begun.

Prudhoe-based Mortal Fools first showed its production MELVA at Christmas 2017 at a pop-up theatre it created on Prudhoe’s Front Street. Now, thanks to nearly £50,000 in funding from Arts Council England, MELVA has been developed into a creative theatre package, in partnership with Children North East, coming to North East schools across 2019 and 2020.

MELVA tells the story of Melva Mapletree, and her churning, squirming, uncontrollable worrits (her anxiety) as she learns to take control, face her fears and become the mountaineer she always wanted to be.

The project is for 7 to 11 year olds and uses a theatre production about anxiety and worries to improve children’s understanding and personal practices for good mental and emotional health.

Artistic Director at Mortal Fools, Kiz Crosbie, said: “When I was first sent a few pages of the MELVA script, I knew it was something special immediately.

“It has such soul and such relevance to the experiences of children growing up in our stressful, chaotic, modern world.

“I am beyond thrilled that we are able to build on its successful first production, touring to schools where children don’t have easy access to great theatre and with a package to support mental health created with our new partner and friends at Children North East.”

Children North East has been working for several years in North East schools delivering the BU (Be Yourself) Course which has been proven to have a positive impact on children’s ability to manage their feelings and behaviour.

Working alongside Mortal Fools, it will use its expertise to deliver a package of activities to help young people understand the production.

Children will also take part in creative engagement workshops, co-delivered by artists and mental health professionals, linked to the play’s characters and mental health themes. Teachers will take part in training CPD workshops and also receive creative classroom resources so that the learning and exploring mental health can continue after the show.

With 600 people already having seen the play, this project will see it delivered to closer to 3,000 people.

Kiz added: “The responses from our MELVA audiences in 2017 demonstrated that this play had real potential to help – giving children and the adults in their lives new, fun ways to talk about their mental health.

“The challenges the characters go through in the play are great models for children, making it clear that we all have challenges and suggesting ways we can make things better.”