From play to game to help kids’ mental health

Published: 28 April 2021
Reporter: Peter Lathan

Melva Mapletree and the Quest for Barnabas Boggle

Prudhoe- (Northumberland) based creative learning company Mortal Fools has turned its children's production Melva into an online interactive game to support children’s mental health and well-being.

The play—which 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’s always wanted to be—was first performed in Prudhoe in 2017 and then, with live workshops, toured schools and venues across the North engaging nearly 2,000 young people aged 7 to 11.

The game, Melva Mapletree and the Quest for Barnabas Boggle, is a creative resource designed to help young people aged 7–11 to better understand, talk about and manage their everyday worries and anxieties. Pre-COVID-19, Public Health England estimated that 1 in 8 young people had a diagnosable mental health condition and now there are growing fears that the global pandemic, lockdowns and social distancing will have a lasting negative impact on many children’s well-being.

The game follows the adventure of Melva, a mountain-climbing, sweet-eating, eyerolling, just-turned-11-year-old, who has been battling with anxiety—or ‘worrits’ as she calls them. We meet Melva as she tries to manage a changing world, with new worrits popping up every day. Users must help her on her quest to find her missing best friend, Barnabas Boggle.

The game is available to families, schools and community groups and Mortal Fools’ ambition is for it to help thousands of young people during 2021 to better understand, talk about and manage their everyday worries and anxieties in the lives they find themselves living.

The Headteacher of Cragside Primary School in Cramlington said, “the pupils constantly ask me when we are playing the Melva game next! The children love the character of Melva. The format is engaging—they like the idea that they are making choices in the game that influence the story. It explores topics such as anxiety in a relaxed and fun way.”

Kiz Crosbie, Mortal Fools CEO & Artistic Director, added, “we are so proud to have launched this fun and creative way for children to learn and talk about their worrits. As a parent of an 11-year-old, I’ve been especially conscious of the impact that life changes, friendship challenges and a global pandemic can have on our small people. My daughter loves the Melva story, the characters and the game format; I hope many other families will find it fun and useful too.”

Melva Mapletree and the Quest for Barnabas Boggle is available now for £9.99 per family (up to 4 users). The interactive game provides child-friendly, accessible language to talk about mental health and well-being, practical strategies and resources for managing worries and an easy and creative context to have open conversations about anxieties and relationships.

The school’s version is available for £350 per school and has additional school resources. Schools can use it together as whole class with group interactive whiteboards at home and / or at school. From autumn 2021, schools will be able to purchase a larger digital package for £750 including the stage play reimagined for film and new digital workshops.

Primary schools in Northumberland are eligible for a 30% discount, thanks to funding and support from Public Health England and Northumberland County Council.

Families, schools and community groups can get more information and play now by visiting the Melva web site.