Young people express their feelings through creating and publishing comics

Knowsley Council-backed community interest company supports vulnerable young people to create their own comic books and zines to express their concerns and hopes, and to help build resilience.

Name Listen Up

Provider Comics Youth CIC

Listen Up is a Knowsley-based project that works with young people aged from eight to 18 years old experiencing mental ill-health and marginalisation to design, create and publish a comic book - online and in print - which explore their health and emotional wellbeing.

Since its launch in November 2017, the project - supported by Knowsley Council through its Better Together programme - has mentored young people to develop their creative and literacy skills, along with improving their resilience. The project uses comic books and zines as a gateway to engagement and a tool for learning and supporting young people with their reading skills. Advice, guidance and materials are provided for young people to create and publish their own comics and zines as a form of grassroots social action.

The project's delivery model was designed by Comics Youth's development board who undertook visual consultation and "Comics Jams" with their peers to assess need and key issues to uncover. Young people were extremely passionate about utilising comics to destigmatise issues such as anxiety, depression, self-injury and suicidal ideation within their peer groups and wider community. They wanted an environment where they could openly express their feelings and be listened to while also holding the wider community to account through publishing their stories.

A safe, inclusive space where the young people feel welcomed and valued is a key part of the project.

A literacy assessment tool helps identify the challenge level of the comic for that young person and their reading age, identify whether they are struggling with a certain type of cue - such as meaning, structural or visual - and determine any key issues around visual comprehension.

By talking about their issues, appropriate support can then be provided to young people to help them to develop their skills and confidence as well as building their emotional resilience and tackle the stigma around mental health.

In just 12 months, the project has provided 168 young people with the opportunity to talk about their mental health and have their voices heard through publishing comics and zines about issues that are important to them.

It has supported young people with learning disabilities to read for the first time, encouraged young people with autism to publish a comic book about their lives, supported a group of young people to publish a trans survival guide, and produced 3,000 copies of a self-care zine curated by young people who have experienced mental ill health.

In addition, Comics Youth has recruited eight volunteers with learning disabilities, gender dysphoria and mental health issues and are in the process of training them to be youth workers.

  • Rhiannon Griffiths is managing director of Comics Youth CIC

My View
M, aged 17

I was being constantly bullied. I felt like no one understood me and didn't see a future for myself.

At first, I was too anxious to attend Comics Youth, but went to visit the office and instantly felt at home seeing all the comics in the library and all the nerdy artwork over the walls.

I started making mini zines about the animes I liked and moved on to making artwork and mini comics about being asexual and a guide for dealing with anxiety and depression.

I'm at peace when I'm drawing and reading comics as it allows me to get away from the troubles I have in the world and I can be whoever I want to be within the worlds I create. I feel like I've found my family in Comics Youth and I can be my true self without judgment or fear.

I've started going to college again and go to cons with my new friends. I've even started volunteering as a peer mentor within juniors' session and had my work displayed in conventions! We're all champions of each other and use our comics to shine a light of support for those that need it.

We laugh, and we cry. I've learnt that I'm not a misfit and that it's okay to not be okay.

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