THIS IS MY WHY
I worked as a teacher in a Pupil Referral Unit for many years. It was a PRU that took few children, but did take in extreme cases. The youngest child we had was ten, the eldest fifteen. These pupils were children who had been excluded from mainstream education, usually for some time. Some were ‘Looked After Children’, living in care homes or foster homes. Some were still at home with family. Some had sad stories, heartbreaking stories. Every day was filled with drama, extreme events of behaviours, physical assault, rage, damage to property … little learning took place – their behaviours simply became a barrier.
I eventually left the job, because it was incredibly stressful – the daily abuse, the frustrations of not being able to help, to reach, to teach … These children needed more help than we were able to give, specific help for their specific needs, for their mental health. If and when help was available, it was either unable to cope with demand, was disjointed, inaccessible, or too sporadic …
Most of these children would stay for a while, a few weeks, a few months, a year. Sometimes we would be able to engage, reach someone, build a relationship and start to get somewhere – but other areas of their life (mostly home) were still too problematic and they would be moved on, to another home, another carer, another county, a Youth Offender placement …
These children, without exception, had something in common – they had ALL been let down by adults. Usually in their very early years, some by parents, some by the social services, or by health services, by their families, by carers … They had simply been let down. Let down when they needed help most. I often wonder where they are now.
That is just part of my story, part of my experience, around mental health and wellbeing. I’ve spoken before about some of my other experiences, mostly to do with family and loved ones (bereavement, anxiety, financial worries, addiction, depression, suicide, illness, relationship breakdown, divorce …) It’s not a pretty list is it? But none of us know what the future holds. Life can change in an instant. We will need to be resilient, to get through, to seek help, to cope, to survive, to overcome.
All of this, and more, is why our children’s emotional literacy, their wellbeing and resilience skills are so very, very important to me. It’s why I’ve written my book, and the next book, and the one after that. It’s why I have my Facebook Group ‘Keep Our Kids Safe & Strong’. I don’t know everything, but what I do know I’ll share – and I’ll keep learning and sharing. And maybe together we can make a difference.
Because our children’s ROBUST mental health, their wellbeing, the way they face challenge and adversity in their lives should be a priority – and the younger we start helping them with that, the better for them.