What's Being Said - Uberheroes

What’s Being Said

Oakgrove Integrated College

Mrs Gemma Kelly, Head of Art at Oakgrove College remarked after a return visit by the Uberheroes® facilitators visited the school.

In December 2016, a group of our students participated in a workshop facilitated by staff of Hope 4 Life. The students enjoyed the opportunity to share their experiences and contribute ideas for a comic called ‘Uberheroes®’. The focus of discussion was the problem of cyberbullying. Next students brainstormed how they might illustrate their ideas in comic book style.

At the second workshop (June 2017) students were able to see the finished product-Vol 1. Genesis. The Uberheroes® comic incorporated real life stories communicated in a visually imaginative way. This is very useful up-to-date resource that can be utilized by teachers, parents and students. The stories help students to realise that there are other young people who may be suffering similar problems to themselves.
Teachers can use the comic book to initiate lessons which will focus on “how to cope with problems associated with the internet” for example, self-harming, and other kinds of bullying. ‘Uberheroes®’ is a visually exciting comic book with illustrations that will appeal to young people. Students thoroughly enjoyed a stimulating workshop which gave them a platform to voice their concerns.

Students at Oakgrove are looking forward to further publications of ‘Uberheroes®’ and an exciting new drama production will be presented in the school next term. Hope 4Life NI is doing tremendous work by supplying invaluable resources for issues that need addressed continually in schools.

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Kaleb Derry said, ‘I love the comic but I don’t like the cliff-hangers….because I want to know if the problem was solved.’

Jude, Derry said, ‘I think it really helps people understand how the people with problems feel and what their emotional state is like. The villains and superheroes thing helps people understand the issues better. ‘

NICIE – Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education

Uberheroes® has been recognised as an excellent tool by Integrated Education. The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) is delighted that their schools are working with this new, innovative and engaging programme. CEO, Roisin Marshall, said, “The mental health and wellbeing of young people is paramount and with the many pressures on them it is great that the Uberheroes® programme is available. To have such a programme, whose USP is to enable young people to discuss and problem-solve issues without being vulnerable or exposed, is invaluable. By looking at how the issues relate to the characters in the stories rather than to them directly makes this a safe way of approaching some very difficult subjects and topics. We support and wish Hope4life every success with the Uberhero programme”.

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Codie, Derry said, ‘Five stars all the way! Dee and Campbell were very informative, friendly and knowledgeable’

Erne Integrated College

Mr Sean Murphy, English Teacher at Erne Integrated College, Enniskillen, remarked after the Uberheroes® facilitators visited the school
Students of Erne Integrated College were delighted to have been involved in the Uberheroes project from the very beginning. This is a unique and innovative idea which foregrounds the problems that young people face and tackles the taboo aspect of these issues head-on. Our Year 9 students were thrilled with the idea of using “superheroes” to personify the challenges that our young people face and the cartoon element of the work carries real cultural currency which resonates with our students.

By “outing” the problems that young people face, students are much freer to express themselves, to ask for help or simply see that their problems are problems that are faced by many of their peers – they are not alone. The candid, no-nonsense approach which explodes the taboos has been cathartic for our students and they have found the focus on well-being and positive approaches to mental health to be liberating. The Uberheroes publication cuts across many curriculum areas such as art, English and Literature (through story-telling), areas of Home Economics and personal development. Through the workshops our students acted a focus group and were given the opportunity to shape the end product. One of students remarked that, this was the first time they had ever been consulted about a product or initiative that affected them directly – they placed great stock on inclusion and the consultative aspect of the project.

Students also commented that the quality of the Uberheroes publication was so professional that they felt that their concerns had been taken very seriously and that they had been listened to. A number of students even commented that the introduction in the comic was very empowering and made them feel that their voice was important. They noted that the stories featured in the comics were based on real events and were enthused to hear that the writers and artists involved were just a few years older than themselves.
We very much look forward to working with Dee and her team in the future and would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all at hope4life.ni on the incredible work that they are doing for our young people.

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Reece, Derry said, “The book is brilliant and it teaches you to help other people that are in need.”

John (13) Banbridge said “reading the comic has really helped me to understand cyber-bulling and what it is. It has be really fun learning more about how to help other people and how to also take care of myself”

Oonagh (12) Newry said “I liked how this was in a comic form so that everyone could understand”

Lisneal College

Mrs Thompson, at Lisneal College, Derry, remarked about their involvement with the Uberheroes® programme

The session was excellent and the facilitators were superb. The issues raised were difficult but the comic strip helped the pupils detach themselves and therefore help the victim in each situation. It is easier to offer advice than accept it or admit it to yourself so the comic hero façade is perfect for their age group.

They were so eager to read on and access the website for more ideas. We read the ‘Drug’ poem, dramatized it in class and discussed the serious issue. The whole Uberheroes concept works because it’s not a lecture, it’s not judgemental, it’s fun and accessible as well as engaging and thought provoking. The circle time after the reading session was essential and the discussion helped the pupil’s problem solve and approach mental health issues (and solutions) safely and honestly. The conversations helped them to see a way forward for people with mental health issues, allowed them to talk about coping strategies which they can hopefully use on themselves and their friends or peers.

Below are a selection of comments, by the pupils at Lisneal College.

Reece says, “The book is brilliant and it teaches you to help other people that are in need.”

Codie says, ‘Five stars all the way! Dee and Campbell were very informative, friendly and knowledgeable’

Jude says, ‘I think it really helps people understand how the people with problems feel and what their emotional state is like. The villains and superheroes thing helps people understand the issues better. ‘

Kaleb, ‘I love the comic but I don’t like the cliff-hangers….because I want to know if the problem was solved.’

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Ciara (10) Dundrum said “I really loved the comic and the discussions, as this made a lot more sense to me about drugs, isolation and depression”

Paula (10) Newcastle said “I liked everything about the comics and the shared sessions, from learning about the dangers of drugs, manipulation and isolation”

Oakgrove Integrated Primary School

Mrs Eibhlin O’Hagan, P7 teacher at Oakgrove Integrated Primary School, Derry, remarked about their involvement with the Uberheroes® programme.

In November 2016 a group of our year 7 students took part in an exciting new early intervention programme to tackle social, emotional and mental wellbeing. The team from Hope 4 Life NI ran focus groups across NI and our children were selected to take part in these. They were presented with a unique early intervention concept for young people called Uberheroes® – a concept based on Superhero style comics which dealt with key issues that are currently not covered elsewhere. I was delighted with the interest and mature discussions our children had with the Uberheroes® team.

The pupils commented on a 4 page sampler of the comic and were delighted to be asked what their opinions were, what they liked about this as an idea and what they didn’t like, what they wanted to see online for helpful resources, for themselves and for their parents. The pupils freely shared their thoughts on the comic format and how they felt it related to them. They really loved the idea that every story in the comic would be based on real young people and their experiences, was age appropriate and how they would be able to contact the Uberheroes® for advice at any time. They also loved the idea that they would each receive a comic which they also suggested they would use this as a tool to talk to their parents, siblings or friends.

Since then we have been delighted to welcome the Uberheroes® facilitation team back with comic 1 which deals with Cyber-bullying and Self-harm and also comic 2 which deals with Manipulation, Isolation, Depression and Drugs. The children have loved being involved and have learnt a lot from these interactive visits from the Uberheroes® facilitators. They enjoyed the engagement and discussions on the issues of cyber-bullying and self-harm, helping to come up with solutions to benefit the character in the story. From these sessions the students were able to think of how they could better cope and overcome these issues, who they should talk to and how the real life advice and guidance given by the Uberheroes staff would be of use in their own lives.

These visits have been really engaging; where the children have felt completely involved in the group activities and discussions in which they’ve had a voice to discuss these issues openly with their peers has been an invaluable experience.

Subsequently we have now included our partner P7 class with the Uberheroes team on their last visit also delivered the programme to them. We are looking forward to future visits in the next term where the children can learn how to cope and deal more challenging topics.

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Jennifer (13) Loughbrickland said “ I think the theme of Mikey’s story was very important and I am so glad that someone has shared their story on dealing with drugs as it is something that is so often overlooked and dismissed. I’ll be making sure to check the Uberheroes website and send in my ideas”

Shimna Integrated College

Mrs Karen Caulfield, VP at Shimna Integrated College, Newcastle, remarked about their involvement with the Uberheroes® programme

Our year 8 students really enjoyed the Uberheroes visit in January 2018. At the end of the session, the students overwhelmingly agreed that they were better informed about cyber-bullying and self-harm. Almost all reported that they felt confident that they would know how to best respond if faced with either issue in the future.
Whilst I value the importance of talking openly about these sensitive issues, I was concerned that some of the students would find the content distressing but this was not the case. The kids identified with and really enjoyed using a “superheroes” comic book to explore the challenges faced by some young people.

We are very much looking forward to having Dee and her team back to Shimna next year.

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Clare (13) from Banbridge said “I like the drawings, the meaning and I think it really made me understand better why isolating myself is bad”

Niamh (13) from Enniskillen was upset as the storyline was very close to what she was going through, she was crying and when asked by our facilitator if she wanted to step out , said “definitely not, this is far too important to me, I need to stay to hear what’s being discussed and said and if possible to help others”

Harpur’s Hill Primary School

Kerry Porter, P7 Teacher at Harpur’s Hill Primary School, Coleraine remarked after the Uberheroes® Comic facilitators visited their school in October 2017

Our Primary 7 pupils were delighted to be selected to receive the Uberheroes workshop from the very talented and committed staff of Hope 4 Life. It is fair to say that initially the majority of the class had limited knowledge of mental health issues and in all honesty, in their naivety, they found it difficult to comprehend how such a topic could relate directly to them.

However, as the session progressed, it became apparent that at such a tender and impressionable stage in their lives, each and every one of our pupils found that they could relate to at least one or two of the scenarios that were discussed such as self-image, self-esteem, confidence and bullying. Even the more delicate topics of depression, self-harm and suicide were touched upon in a very sympathetic and sensitive manner which undoubtedly gave the children the confidence to ask questions and explore these areas in more detail.

The session itself was extremely engaging and interactive, incorporating the clever introduction of the Uberheroes comic book which highlighted many of the ‘real-life’ situations faced by children in our fast-paced and demanding society. Through the staff’s skilled facilitation of group work and discussion, the children were encouraged to consider how they would react if they were to encounter similar situations. Throughout the entire workshop, emphasis was put on educating the children first and foremost, providing them with coping strategies whilst providing a safe platform on which to express their concerns and opinions regarding a variety of topical issues.

All-in-all, this was an exceptionally informative and worthwhile experience for our pupils, accompanied by some colourful, eye-catching and of course, thought-provoking reading material which the Primary 7s simply couldn’t put down!

Thanks must go to the staff for the follow-up statistics provided exclusively from the questionnaires our pupils completed at the end of the session. This will prove very beneficial as we continue to strive to nurture and support our pupils’ emotional and physical well-being within the school. We look forward to welcoming the staff back in the near future and highly anticipate the next exciting instalment of their Uberheroes comic!

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Alfie(9) from Crossgar said “ I have been feeling really down because I am being bullied and this has made me feel that if Jill in the story can get help then so can I, I now know what I need to do and who I need to turn to for support”

Jodie (14) from Derry said “talking only by text or social media causes loads of fall-outs and sometimes cyber-bullying because they misunderstand what’s been said”

Hazelwood Integrated College

Mrs Aine Leslie – Assistant Principal of Hazelwood College said after our Uberheroes® facilitators and Actors made a return visit to the school – “Hazelwood College greatly values the work of the Uberheroes® programme with our Year 9 students. We were privileged to be selected to be part of a working focus group party in the planning stages as well as participating in the drama and the facilitation groups facilitated by our Drama Department. Each pupil watched the drama, took part in group discussions where they chatted through options and outcomes for the characters in the stories. They also received a signed copy of the first edition comic as did the school, the students learnt about ways to cope and actions to take if they were being bullied or considering self-harm. The Uberheroes® facilitation programme was engaging and thought provoking as well as offering an opportunity for our Year 9 students to have their pictures taken with the characters being a memorable event. Uberheroes® supports LLW programmes of study like those aiming to reduce alcohol and drug misuse, which alone can be limiting. The College is very much aware of the strong evidence linking academic achievement to mental health and wellbeing, to this end Uberheroes® has been used by the College as a powerful tool to promote resilience in our students in an age appropriate way. It is widely recognised that a child’s emotional health and wellbeing influences their cognitive development and learning as well as their physical and social health and their mental wellbeing in adulthood. We look forward to furthering our relationship and involvement in this vital and invaluable programme helping our students to learn more about how to keep themselves emotionally healthy as well as enabling us to have other resources available to us to enable us to ensure that in all ways we are promoting and empowering the overall wellbeing of our students”

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Kyle (11) from Saintfield said “There’s a reason behind why someone is so unhappy that they want to Cyber-bully someone”

Enniskillen Integrated Primary School

Liam McCaffrey – P7 Teacher, Enniskillen Integrated Primary School, Enniskillen remarked after the Uberheroes® facilitators visited the school:

The children in my class effectively connected with the characters and the story content evoked mature and open discussions from our Year 7’s. The topics covered are prevalent and it is so essential that young children are aware of the support that’s available. Young children have very real fears, worries and anxieties and this is a superb vehicle for them to express these in an open and inclusive way. They learnt how to talk as well as how to deal with whatever issues may arise in their lives; whether that be now or in the future. My kids enjoyed the role-play reading of the comics and the discussions around each scenario. The Uberheroes programme captivated their interest right from the very start.

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Kieron (17) Belfast said “they are great, we need more comics, covering family break-up, moving away and divorce; these are good subjects for the Uberheroes to cover”

All Children’s Integrated Primary School

Mr Martin Houlahan, P7 teacher and Vice-Principal at All Children’s Integrated Primary School, Newcastle, remarked about their involvement with the Uberheroes Programme

In November 2017 we were delighted to welcome the Uberheroes Facilitation Team to our school.

The introduction captivated the children and the wide variety of characters totally engaged the children for the duration of the workshops.

The topics covered were extremely challenging to P7 children, the discussions around topics such as cyber bullying, drugs and self-harm were taken seriously and with a degree of honesty in a safe and controlled environment.

Children don’t normally get the opportunity to engage in discussions such as these difficult mental health issues, however, the way the facilitators delivered the programme was excellent from the point of having difficult conversations in a safe environment.

The Uberheroes message was so strong that P7 felt so strongly that they portrayed the main characters on a display board with an explanation of the work that they were doing as a class.

The class are eagerly awaiting the next instalment of the artistic comic and hoping that some of their suggestions for storylines have been included.
One child from my class summed it up beautifully…. “Uberheroes turns difficult stories into comic situations to help get life messages across to us” Conleth

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Hannah (18) Belfast said “I don’t normally like comics, but these are really challenging to me, especially as I have been effected by the topics covered, what an marvellous way to challenge our thinking and to question our actions”

North Coast Integrated College

Mrs Carol Bryson – Senior Teacher at North Coast College said after our Uberheroes® facilitators visited their school –
“In April 2016 a group of our year 9 students took part in an exciting new programme focus group where the young people were presented with an unique early intervention concept for young people called Uberheroes® – this concept was based on a Superhero style comic which dealt with two issues, that of self-harm and cyber bullying.

The pupils read the 4 page sampler of the comic and were asked to discuss what they as young people liked about the ideas and what they didn’t like, what they would want online for helpful resources, and would they prefer plays or multi-media presentations. The pupils shared their thoughts on the comic format, how it was age appropriate, how it was realistic of the types of problems they are facing and suggested that they would be keen to use this as a platform to talk to their parents.

The experienced Uberheroes® facilitation team from Hope4Life returned in October 2017 to speak with the same group of students; they brought with them the comic that the young people were involved in developing and the students were really keen to read this very professionally drawn and written comic. They enjoyed the engagement and discussions on the issues of cyber-bullying and self-harm helping to come up with solutions to benefit the character in the story. From these sessions the students were able to think of how they could better cope and overcome these issues, who they should talk to and how the good advice given by the Uberheroes staff could be used in their own lives.

During both visits the students were really engaged in the group activities and were keen to discuss these issues with their peers and the facilitators.

We are all looking forward to future visits in the New Year when we plan to involve the whole year group in the Uberheroes® play facilitation and with additional comic discussions dealing with other challenging topics.

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Mark (17) Belfast said “the art work is amazing, such talent, the expressions are so descriptive and the message is bad ass….”

Kilbroney Integrated Primary School

Paddy Joe McComiskey – Primary Seven Teacher at Kilbroney Integrated Primary School, Rostrevor remarked after the Uberheroes® facilitators visited the school

In January 2018 my primary seven class participated in an Uberheroes programme that focused on themes such as self-harm, cyber bullying and death of close family members. These topics are very rarely discussed (if at all) within the primary classroom as they can closely relate to some of the pupils and prove to be contentious for teachers to discuss. However, the Uberheroes programme was delivered in a safe, creative and relatable way for the primary seven pupils to discuss these issues as most of the class were attracted to the stylish and modern look of the comic books.

After discussing what each of the superheroes represented on the front cover of the comic book the class read through the story and split into focus groups to draw from the various themes that arose. The focus groups were extremely beneficial as pupils were able to contribute what they already knew surrounding the topics and this allowed the facilitators to implement knowledge and information on why these issues may occur in people’s lives. From these focus groups the facilitators were also able to inform the children of the appropriate channels to go through if they ever come across or experience any such topics and issues. This was the main learning point of the lesson as pupils were able to look at proactive steps they could take to deal with these serious issues.

After the session concluded it was evident from the feedback given from the pupils that they had learned a lot more about mental health and cyber bullying than before the session had occurred. The facilitators were extremely helpful and great and delivering the lesson at the appropriate level as the children loved listening to what they had to say. I am looking forward to the second session as the kids have had a lot more time to think about contentious issues that happen outside of school. A huge thank you for the facilitators taking the time and effort to come in and deliver such an effective and worthwhile programme.

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Darren (10) from Belfast said “I don’t like comics, but I love Uberheroes and what they can teach us”.

Bridge Primary School

Mrs Elaine Young P7 Teacher at Bridge Integrated Primary School, Banbridge remarked after the Uberheroes® facilitators visited the school
“We were delighted to welcome the Uberheroes® facilitation team to our school and appreciate the very positive impact you had on our group of Primary 7 pupils. The level of engagement from beginning to end was most evident and the content was presented in a very thought provoking way. We felt each of you as facilitators did an excellent job of prompting discussions and leading the pupils towards making good choices. It was by chance that we ended up with 3 members of staff in the hall during the discussion time and, on hindsight, we all agreed it was very useful to be able to listen to many children express some of their own personal understanding on these subjects. As teachers, we have only a little knowledge of what they are experiencing outside of school and therefore we found time spent with own pupils in this unique setting was both insightful and helpful. Many thanks too for the information provided as it is so encouraging to see statistically how beneficial the afternoon really was. We would love to have you back again in the New Year”

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Pete (12) from Omagh said “the Uberheroes sessions aren’t long enough; they should be longer for us to have more time to chat about the storylines”

Jo (14) from Carryduff said “I love that you have combined learning with fun, love this as a concept for young people to learn how to overcome mental health issues”.

Millennium Integrated Primary School

Mr Barry Corrigan, P7 Teacher and Vice Principal at Millennium Integrated Primary School, Carryduff remarked after the Uberheroes® facilitators visited the school

“’The arrival of the Uberheroes® in school caused quite a stir amongst the children in my class. Children of this age tend not to get too excited by the arrival of guests but this was certainly not the case here; once the Uberheroes® began discussing the important themes involved, they took time to listen. As a standard, it is difficult to get children to engage with mental health and resilience issues as they can be very self-conscious. However, by facilitating the discussions midway through and letting them take the lead this gave the children the opportunity to focus on what was being discussed and to decide what the outcomes from these discussions should be. In what are very pressurised and ‘full-on’ lives for our children, it is good to know that there is a programme available for them to fully engage with and have a safe and secure environment in which to discuss some difficult subjects.

It is important that our children and young people are given the opportunity to address these issues and react in a range of different forms beyond the simple teacher at the top of the class approach and the Uberheroes® programme gives us a new and dynamic way in which to enable children to have these important conversation but to uncover ways to prevent these from being issues in the future.

I believe that our children learnt a great deal in an engaging and safe environment where they were able to have frank and honest discussions whilst uncovering solutions to difficult issues.”

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Amy (13) from Belfast said “I love that this comic is something I could use with my sisters and Mum to talk about my fears and feelings”.

Gaelscoil na Daróige

Séanna Ó Coinn – P7 Teacher at Gaelscoil na Daróige remarked on the Uberheroes® programme after we visited them earlier this year:
B’iontach an deis é seo dár bpáistí dul i ngleic le hábhair thar a bheith íogair a bhfuil, rómhinic, neamh iontas déanta orthu sa ghnáth shaol agus ag na daoine fásta ina saolta. Pléadh ábhair macasamhail féindochar agus andúilíocht drugaí, ar dhóigh oscailte a thug comhthéacs fóirsteanach don fhadhb. Thaitin an cuir i láthair go mór leis na páistí agus tá mé den tuairim gur chuidigh seo leo na fadhbanna a thuigbheail ar leibhéal cuí de réir a n-aibíochta. Mar mhúinteoir, bhí lúcháir orm nuair a thug mé faoi deara go raibh na rudaí seo á phlé eatarthu féin ar dhóigh aibí, tuisceanach gan aon ionchur uaimse; thug an ceardlann an teanga ceart dóibh seo a dhéanamh. Is léir gur tháinig fíor deiseanna foghlamtha amach as an tseisiúin agus b’iontach dá mba rud é go raibh tuilleadh ar fáil (i nGaeilge ach go háirithe!)

English translation
This was an excellent opportunity for our children to engage with highly sensitive issues that are, all too often, ignored in everyday life by the adults in their lives. Topics such as self-harm and drug addiction were addressed in an open way that gave appropriate context to the problem. The layout and presentation of the comic really appealed to the children and I believe that this helped them to understand the problems at a level entirely appropriate to their maturity. As a teacher, I was delighted when I realised that the children themselves were discussing the issues among themselves in a mature and understanding way without any prior prompting from myself; the workshop gave them the language to make this possible. It is clear that real learning opportunities came about as a result of this session and it would be brilliant to see more of the same (especially in Irish!).

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