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Meet Worryboy: the little guy helping children tackle their worries

Local artist Elsbeth van der Poel has created Worryboy: a stunning and moving exhibition helping children learn about mental health.

She’s taking the story of Jonah (a little boy with a head full of worries who embarks on an adventure to face his fears) to local primary schools to stimulate discussion about depression.

And, with her support, Year Six children at Jubilee Primary in Stoke Newington are creating their own artwork which will be displayed in at least 17 local shop windows in July. They include Location Location estate agency, Earlybird Cards, Mind Charity Shop, Hair Tonic and Olive Loves Alfie.

This week, to mark Mental Health Awareness Week. Location Location met with Elsbeth to learn more about the project.

The 43-year-old grew up in Holland and now lives in Dalston. She first came up with the idea for Worryboy when she was overcoming her own battle with depression in her 20s. Her decision to create an exhibition was sparked by a series of courses about mental health.

She said: “I hope Worryboy is helping children identify their feelings and know that it’s OK to feel emotions. We all have two sides to ourselves – we have this worried person and we have greatness and amazing gifts.  Depression can impact everyone. As human beings we have to find ways to feel better when we’re feeling down.”

The main characters in the illustrations are Jonah and his happy-go-lucky friend Jamila who is always trying to cheer him up.  One day Jonah wakes up with a massive head because his worries have grown so big inside his head. With Jamila he goes on an adventure trying to figure out what is wrong.

The Worryboy exhibition first featured at Oxford House in Bethnal Green. At that time Elsbeth, who now works part time as a nanny, was working as a teaching assistant in schools.

Elsbeth added: “Worryboy is very much my alter ego. I can remember suddenly becoming very aware of things and worrying more towards the end of primary school. Years Five and Six are full of changes: SATS, preparing for big school and early puberty – it can be a very confusing time.”

Three local schools have been working with Elsbeth and the Worryboy adventure – including Chisenhale, Hague Primary and Jubilee Primary.

Pupils are asked to draw what worries would look like if they were people. Through the story, children learn a few tools such as meditation, to deal with confusing emotions. They’re encouraged to tune in to their inner wisdom and to sum up what advice the “wise being” in their hearts might give.

Elsbeth hopes to one day make Worryboy into a book. To find out more visit www.worryboy.com


    I hope Worryboy is helping children identify their feelings and know that it’s OK to feel emotions

    Posted 14th May 2018


    Vicky BibirisManaging Director

    Vicky started with Location Location as a junior negotiator in 2006 and within a short period of time became the top performing sales consultant in the company taking on the role of Branch Manager in 2009. Vicky's exceptional ability is backed up by her infectious enthusiasm for people and property, this led to her becoming Sales Director and equity partner in 2012. Vicky has been an integral part in establishing Location Location's reputation as one of North London's leading estate agents.