UCLan harnesses power of superheroes to support youngsters’ mental health

17 January 2022

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) is promoting positive mental well-being to young people using the power of science.

Following on from the successful book ‘Unmasked: The Science of Superheroes’, which reveals the scientific realities behind famous comic book legends and blockbusting movies and was co-authored by seven practising scientists at UCLan, one of the authors has published a special well-being supplement to help older children and young adults successfully manage their mental well-being.

The free online resource, available to download from today, has been funded by the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust, a charity which supports mental health in young people. It addresses issues such as the causes of stress and anxiety and ways to manage it, how to sleep better to improve mental health and ways to cope during difficult times.

Sarita and robot

Dr Sarita Robinson, an expert in the psychobiology of behaviour, has written the well-being guide. It continues the theme of the book by using superheroes to illustrate the workings of science and psychological health in a relatable way for young people.

She said: “We have good guidance on looking after our physical health but less is known about practical ways to look after our mental well-being. The Science of Superheroes provides age appropriate advice and guidance for children and young adults on how to look after their mental health.

“Using superheroes examples in our new online well-being guide allows us to engage kids and young adults in an engaging and enjoyable way. Talking about how friends can help us through difficult times with examples of superhero teams helps to bring the topic alive.”

In the guide, readers learn what helps Thor feel better after the fall of Asgard, how the Hulk copes with feeling anxious and how Batman deals with the stress of being a superhero. It also highlights how a lack of sleep affects Mr Incredible and how Captain American benefits mentally from exercise.

“The key aim of this online guide is to encourage young people to open up and talk about their mental health and signposts them to other services if they are facing more significant mental health challenges” said Dr Robinson. “We hope that the Science of Superheroes – Wellbeing Edition – will help and support young people with their mental well-being, especially after the challenges of the pandemic.”

Evan Grant, Chair of Trustees for Cameron Grant Memorial Trust, said: “Our goal is to help anyone in mental distress, and especially young people, to speak up and ask for help. We continually seek new ways to encourage people to open up and talk about their feelings. We love the idea of using superheroes to do this and are delighted to support this project.”

‘Unmasked – The Science of Superheroes’ was published in 2020 by UCLan Publishing. The book draws on computing, engineering, maths, physics, biology and psychology to explain the science behind the powers of popular superheroes, with each of the seven authors turned into superheroes within the pages to reflect the different types of superpowers.

The book’s success has led to work with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) as part of the Reading Agency’s Reading Sparks programme where it was chosen as one of several titles gifted to families experiencing hardship.

The UCLan-assembled superpowered team of authors consists of Professor Robert Walsh alongside Dr Sarita Robinson, Nicky Danino, Dr Catherine Tennick, Dr Matthew Dickinson, Adam Wilcox and Dr Sylvy Anscombe.

The online well-being edition of ‘Unmasked: The Science of Superheroes’ is available on the www.unmaskedscience.com website.

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