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YoungMinds award highlights need to understand childhood bereavement

"I have been left to my own devices, with my loneliness, fear and shame. I do not want to be a nuisance. I just want to know that I am not completely alone."

This comment from 16-year-old Caroline, who lost her father to cancer, highlights the isolation bereaved children and young people can often experience, and the need for others to understand what they are feeling.

The comment comes from Still Here With Me by Swedish author Suzanne Sjoqvist, which last night (Thursday 15 November) was awarded the 2007 YoungMinds Book Award at a gala ceremony in London.

The award, sponsored by bestselling author Philip Pullman, recognises the role that writers can provide in allowing adults to see the world through children's eyes. According to YoungMinds, the UK's leading children's mental health charity, we all need to retain the perspective of childhood if we are to support young people effectively.

Still Here With Me, published by Jessica Kingsley, is a collection of first-hand experiences of children who have lost a parent. Suzanne Sjoqvist lost her own father aged ten. Still Here With Me draws attention to the "wall of silence that can hurt" and she says the message of the children's stories is that in their darkest hour, children should not be shut out of the grieving process.

Award judge, author and broadcaster Will Self said: "The author has done a brilliant job of encouraging her subjects to link ordinary life to extreme events. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who is experiencing a bereavement themselves, or trying to help someone who is. It is readable, direct, and sensitive without being mawkish."

Leading figures from the charity sector and world of literature attended the ceremony and listened to speakers including health minister Ivan Lewis, Philip Pullman and Will Self. YoungMinds chief executive Barbara Herts drew attention to the upcoming National Year of Reading and called for a greater recognition of the role of literature in promoting young people's emotional well-being.

Barbara Herts said: "The YoungMinds Book Award celebrates the voices adult writers give to children. Reading and the empathy we all gain through reading should never be underestimated."

Suzanne Sjoqvist was presented with the £3,000 prize by award sponsor Philip Pullman. He said: "The YoungMinds Book Award recognises and thanks authors whose work throws light on this dark time in some young people's lives encouraging greater understanding of the tensions and difficulties which many children and young people encounter."

*Photographs available*

*Winning author Suzanne Sjoqvist is available in London today (Friday 16 November) for interview. Call 07973 218434*

Notes for editors:

1.The annual YoungMinds Book Award started in 2003 and is given to a work of literature which best portrays something of the unique subtlety of a child's experience, throwing fresh light on the ways a child takes in and makes sense of the world he or she is growing into. Since 2005 the award has been sponsored by the generosity of author Philip Pullman. Last year's award winner was Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala.

2.Suzanne Sjoqvist is an author, translator and prize-winning journalist. She worked for one of the main Swedish national newspapers, including spending some time in Denmark as a foreign correspondent. She won the Swedish National Journalism Award in 1984. She left the paper to write full-time and now divides her time between Stockholm and Copenhagen. She is currently working on another book.

3.YoungMinds is the UK's leading children's mental health charity committed to improving the mental health and emotional wellbeing of children and young people by ensuring mental health is placed firmly on the public and political agenda.

For further information visit www.youngminds.org.uk

For further information contact:

Kate Allan
Email: press@youngminds.org.uk
Tel: 07973 218434

*Photograph: Philip Pullman and Suzanne Sjoqvist*


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