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Journaling on a journey with Head Strong

Jessica Whittaker

03 Jun, 2019


SelfharmUK’s Jess Whitaker explains the process of crafting a new resource to help young people understand and look after their mental and emotional wellbeing.


I don’t know about you, but the hardest thing I find about going on a journey is knowing where to start. It was a bit like this with creating the Head Strong Journal; I knew where I was headed, but I didn’t really know where to begin.

We knew we wanted to create a journal that encouraged and empowered young people to understand how to look after their mental and emotional wellbeing. No mean feat. The first initial task was to devise a way that young people could understand what their wellbeing consisted of – this was where the six key areas (the six chapters of Head Strong) came in.

‘Thinking’, ‘talking’, ‘doing’, ‘moving’, ‘eating’ and ‘resting’.

These are not only easy words for young people to remember, but they represent all the things that young people should associate with looking after their wellbeing. From how they think and feel about themselves, to making sure they talk to other people about what’s going on in their lives, to doing things for others so they can be reminded of how they would want to be treated, to keeping active, eating well and ensuring they are taking time out for themselves and getting consistent sleep.

An aspect that made the Head Strong Journal unique was the fact that there are two ways to use it. A young person can either work their way through it by starting at the beginning and doing the activities as they go along, or by picking one of the six key areas they want to improve on and focusing on that.

It was important for us to create a journal that wasn’t full of blank pages where young people were just simply left to their own devices, but one where they were guided through activities and taken on a journey with a way for them to measure, look back and see how they’d actually grown. Alongside that we wanted to include fun activities between each chapter; to emphasise the importance of simple enjoyment alongside more serious self-reflection.

When it came to the design, we chose a neutral colour that would appeal to boys and girls – we wanted to create something that any young person could engage with, regardless of their gender. We chose to keep the use of colours within the journal really limited as we wanted Head Strong to be something that young people could identify with and really make their own by colouring in anything, everything or nothing. We also wanted the design to feel quite friendly and fluid, with an illustrative style to each page that wouldn’t end up looking too busy, and allowed for as many different types of activities within each key area as possible.


In order for young people to remind themselves of where they are on their journey within the journal, each copy is fitted with a bookmark, a ‘Little Reminders’ pocket at the back, and a band around the outside to ensure that nothing that might be being kept safe inside the pocket accidentally fell out.

In recent years, you might have noticed that young people have gone a bit journal crazy. You don’t have to look very far these days to discover that trendy, youth-orientated stationery shops like Paperchase and Kikki.K in London are full of journals of all shapes, sizes, colours and topics, each waiting for the right young person to come along, open them up and start exploring.

An 18-year-old girl who recently bought the journal explained that “…it was really helpful and made me understand my emotional wellbeing much better”. And that was our final destination – to have produced a tool to guide and encourage as many young people as possible to begin to understand and explore what wellbeing is and how they can look after it.

Whether you’re reading this as a young person, a parent or someone working with young people, I hope you enjoyed finding out more about the journal, and that it’s encouraged you to really think about if you or others could benefit from journaling on a journey with Head Strong.

The Head Strong Journal is available to purchase from our store.

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