Wigan teacher turns author to help children deal with some of life's most difficult issues

A teacher from Wigan has turned his hand to writing children's books to help youngsters deal with some of life's most difficult issues.

Depression, cancer and dementia are among the subjects tackled by Alex Winstanley, who started writing during lockdown.

Alex set up the not-for-profit training provider Happy Smiles to empower disabled young adults to deliver awareness and inclusion training across schools, community groups and businesses.

They spoke to thousands of children before the pandemic but were then forced to take their events online.

With extra time on his hands, Alex decided he could speak to youngsters in another way.

Pages from My Uncle Has Depression tell children how even sport stars can get depressed Credit: Alex Winstanley / Adam Walker-Parker

The series aims to help primary school children have awareness and reduce anxiety of different long-term health conditions.

Alex's first crowdfunded picture book was inspired by his own grandmother. My Grandma Has Dementia has been read around the world and has since been shortlisted for a Dementia Hero award.

He had conversations with charities and former rugby league players about leaving the game before writing My Uncle Has Depression, which was praised by mental health experts for its "captivating honesty".

Children from Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School in Leigh read one of the books Credit: ITV Granada

His next book My Brother Has Cancer was inspired by the experience of Alex's brother and a friend.

Three other books are planned to be published later this year and Alex says all profits will directly support the work of Happy Smiles to create inclusive communities in and around Wigan.