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Hard-hitting S4C drama that tackles children’s mental health issues shortlisted for top award

12 Sep 2022 6 minute read
Rebecca Hayes as Bex

A hard-hitting children’s TV show that covers new ground in tackling mental health problems and tragedies that affect children and their families is in the running for a top award.

S4C drama, Bex, made by pioneering television producer Nia Ceidiog and starring West End actress Rebecca Hayes has been  shortlisted for a BAFTA Cymru prize

The programme highlights how youngsters can be seriously disturbed by all kinds of real-life mental health and wellbeing issues and how talking about them can be a big help.

The other nominees in the children’s television category are Deian a Loli and Hei Hanes!, both made by Cwmni Da from Caernarfon, and Efaciwis produced by WildFlame Productions in Cardiff.

The glittering ceremony will take place at St David’s Hall on Sunday, October 9, and will be hosted by One Show presenter Alex Jones.

Among the difficulties featured in the first series of Bex were a young boy whose sister has died of leukaemia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Panic Attacks, Body Dysmorphic Disorder and a phobia of vomiting

Made by the Cardiff-based Ceidiog production company, funded by the Young Audiences Content Fund, Ceidiog and S4C, Bex consisted of eight 20-minute episodes.

A second series has been commissioned by S4C and has again received funding by the now closed YACFUND and scripting is already underway.

Producer Nia Ceidiog, originally from Wrexham is the creative mind behind many children’s TV programmes including the BAFTA Cymru winning Dwylo’r Enfys.

Nia Ceidiog directing the ground-breaking TV series, Bex

Another series, Y Diwrnod Mawr, was five times nominated for prestigious worldwide awards, however, she remains probably best known for writing the original version of the popular  Fireman Sam children’s TV series which ran from 1987-94.

She was delighted that Bex had been shortlisted in the BAFTA Cymru awards.

She said: “it was a lovely surprise and testament to the creativity and hard work of  everyone involved.

“It’s also great to be able to produce drama for children in the Welsh language about a challenging subject. We’re very grateful to BAFTA Cymru for the nomination.

Rebecca Hayes, from Cardiff, said: “This was the first show I’ve done for children. The reason I did it is if I had had a programme like this when I was growing up dealing with the whole load of things I’ve had to deal with in my life and the lives of my friends I would have loved it.

“It’s shown me it’s not something to be afraid of or keep quiet about. I’ve learned things I didn’t know much about as well and could have helped me recognise the issues in others. It’s important for young people to see that things like panic attacks, anxiety, phobias and such do happen and its possible to live with these issues.”

Major issue

She said mental health issues among children and young people was one of the major issues that emerged during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“But that has led to more openness and more discussion and young people now believe they have someone they can talk to about their problems, their phobias and issues. Bex shows young people how to talk to someone to share how they feel and know that they can help.,” added. Rebecca.

Bex, explained Rebecca, is a special person who appears to children who need her help in the series

“She visits a number of children who are suffering from various issues related to their mental health and encourages them to talk to her and to others,” said Rebecca.

During the series Bex visited Jac, who has lost his sister Anni to the blood cancer, Leukaemia and Casi who suffers from severe anxiety. This has developed into Emetophobia, an extreme fear of vomiting, seeing vomit, watching other people vomit, or even feeling sick. It is a phobia that may occur alongside other mental health conditions which Nia Ceidiog says is not as rare as many people might think.

Rebecca added that during the series Bex also visited Celyn and Elis, who have  both been affected by the effects of an OCD condition. Other issues examined by Bex included Panic Attacks, Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD).

Rebecca Hayes as Bex and Nel Williams as Casi

She said a youngster with SAD worries a lot about being apart from family members or other close people. The child has a fear of being lost from their family or of something bad occurring to a family member if he or she is not with the person. This had become increasingly evident during the Covid-19  pandemic.

“In the show Bex visited Trystan who suffers from SAD. He doesn’t want to go back to school and continually contacts his parents by calling or texting them,” she said.

Nia Ceidiog added Rebecca gave a masterful performance as Bex

“We saw a lot of actors for the part and Rebecca was excellent. Her performance is understated but strong and very realistic. The children who are in the show thought she was very cool,” she said.

Experts

She added the programme was aimed at children aged eight to twelve years and was shown at 6.30pm, a little later than the normal children’s programming time on S4C as it was a time when families normally sit down to watch television

“We have had experts and specialists behind us all the way through the making of this programme advising us about the issues portrayed in the programmes. The fictional dramas  are challenging but realistic and the conditions portrayed are serious but BEX brings hope.

“The children go through a lot but we’ve done that with help from the experts, we don’t want to trigger anything in anyone but we have tried to be honest,” she said.

Nia’s production company, which has won BAFTA awards for other pioneering children’s television programmes, was provided with support from the Welsh Government to provide educational resources to accompany the series. She said health and well-being were key parts of the new school curriculum in Wales.

A number of well-known authors, including Megan Angharad Hunter, Anni Llyn, Nia Morais, Angharad Blythe and Manon Steffan-Ros, joined teachers, children and other experts to create these resources.


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