Wednesday, 22 February 2012


I consider myself to be a patient reasonable person most of the time, but yesterday I woke up feeling like I was about to go to war. Patience you see is exhaustible, it can be used up, wrung out and dashed away, even the most patient of people like myself can spew up the bones of patience when pushed far enough, I is not Mary Poppins, I is just me. I had an appointment with a new doctor, new being the magic word, I was hoping for a human being in doctor form and not a nobjockey. Alas that was too much to ask and as I entered the pokey little office and caught her eyeing up my stressed out tresses piled haphazardly atop my head I wished I'd have sorted my barnet out.

So much of a doctors consultation is based on what you look like and your body language, I was knackered, without makeup (not a pretty sight) and bordering on quiet hysteria inside. I'm sure she must have sensed this and asked me what I was there for. She didn't have my notes you see. I told her I wanted relevant tests.

'Why?' she asks.

'Because I don't agree with the flaky diagnosis made by my previous doctor'

She stays composed but her rather large nostrils flare slightly and her pupils dilate.

'What makes you think your pain is caused by something else?'

'I don't think it is I know it is'

Her shoulders spring up slightly and she frowns.

I then reel off my whole history, AGAIN, quickly but articulately and I can see her squirming uncomfortably in her chair. She hasn't considered this and neither had my previous doctor.
She doesn't want me to be in her office eyeballing her and challenging her professional ability. I don't want to be there either, she's not listening and I can feel my face getting red and tiny puffs of smoke coming out my ears.

'I want the tests'

I'm now clutching the chair I'm sitting on with balled fists and my knuckles are white, I stare at my enagagement ring and remember the fella telling me not to lose my temper, they won't listen if you do that. They don't anyway. I feel like I'm a tiny volcano about to erupt but I look at her and smile like I've been sucking on aniseed.

' I want the tests or I'm going private and I will be getting a copy of my doctors notes too'.

She's about my age, maybe a bit older and I feel like ramming her prescription pad right down her throat, but of course I won't do that, I have patience.

 Yeah reams and reams of patience that extends for years and years and never gets tired, like when I was six and my mum told me that if I ate all my readybrek, the readybrek man would come and do a dance for me, everyday at breakfast I waited and he never bastarding came.

Or like how I waited months on end to be picked to dance in the first row at ballet class when I was 8 and katy jones always got picked over me, or like when doorsteps callers don't fecking listen when you tell them you are not interested in having your loft insulated, or when your fellas' face just goes blank when you ask him to do the dishes after eating and in the end you have to stick typed directions on the fridge to get him to do them.

Yeah, patience got loads of that me and I came out of the doctors ready to cry, punch someone in the nose and spray paint 'nob jockeys' all the way across the practice window. My patience was tested again, but I held my own and sometimes even when you feel small and insignificant, even when you know you are right but no one is listening, even when you feel it is you against the world and you are outnumbered, have faith and have patience, because slow and steady wins the race.

Patience is needed to see a task through to a successful conclusion, even when you are furious, don't show them that you are furious, even when you want to cry, don't cry in front of them, patience is exhaustible but if you look hard enough you can find it within you.

Just take a deep breath and in the privacy of your living room, scream 'NOB JOCKEY', usually does the trick for me.


Saturday, 18 February 2012

12 Is the magic number for this meme

I’ve been tagged by the lovely @AlwaysARedhead in this meme of 12 things.
Here are the rules you need to stick to. But I promise it will be worth it(I hope!)

1) You must post the rules
2) Post 12 fun facts about yourself in the blog post
3) Answer the questions the tagger has set for you in their post and then create 12 new questions for the fellow bloggers you plan to tag
4) Tag 12 people and link to them on your blog
5) Let them know you tagged them

12 Fun Facts about me:

1. I've had more childhood injuries than you can shake a stick at, as the only girl in amongst many brothers, I had to keep my end up by proving I could do whatever they did. Consequently I have had one broken wrist, 2 wry necks (had to wear a collar for a month each time) one big cut to the leg and the scar to prove it, two concussions and one broken nose. I still have the banter with the boys but have since grown out of climbing apple trees and nicking all the fruit.

2. I'm really good at doing accents, my favourites include cockney, manc and scouse.

3. I can dance me, give me an empty dance floor, a pair of heels and a bit of funk and I can get down like nobodies business.

4. The first things I'm attracted to in a man are, his teeth, smile, laugh and smell. In that order. And obviously not if he has bad teeth or smells funny.

5. Things that irritate me: Rudeness, especially when people don't say thank you for small courtesies. People passing judgement without ascertaining the facts first/forcing their own conditions on other people. People who talk really slowly and don't finish sentences properly.

6. Things that make me smile: My fella. Memories of my dog marnie racing round and round the field on her walk, she's old now and can't do that anymore. Sunshine. Baileys and ice. Real log fires. Ska music/soul music. Love. Humour. Freshly painted toenails. People smiling at you in the street for no reason other than to smile. The little things.

7. I don't cry very often but when I do it's usually because i'm pre menstrual/poorly/watching some horrible feature on animal abuse/funerals.

8. I'm a loyal friend and once I've put my trust in you i'm a forever friend.

9. I have a massive, massive, massive thing for Idris Elba.

10. My previous jobs have included, Travel agent/legal secretary/shoe seller/painter and decorator and more recently Holistic Therapist and mental health support group facilitator.

11. I love olive oil but not olives.

12. My favourite parts of my body are, My smile, batty and hair.

 My 12 questions asked by AlwaysARedhead:

1. Favourite movie? Ghost (Patrick swayze was my first crush, still fancy the pants off him in dirty dancing)
2. What is the last thing you ate? Roast chicken, organic broccoli and leeks and a baked potato

3. Where was your first kiss? Honestly can't remember who with but I know I was about ten.

4. If you could be any actor, who would that be? Helena Bonham Carter, she's eccentric In a good way and a great actress.

5. Twitter or Facebook? Twitter, deffo.

6. Do you prefer camping or a 5-star hotel? I've only stayed in a 5 star once and it was so-so in my opinion. Usually go self catering cos that's how I roll. Like camping but couldn't do it all the time.

7. Your favourite sandwich? Don't do sandwiches, I'm wheat intolerant. Wouldn't mind being squished in a sandwich with Idris elba though :)

8. Would you like to travel in space? Hell no, freaky!

9. Ride in a roller coaster or watch? Watch, I'm too old for that shit now.

10. Where would you like to visit? Salzburg, Connemara in Ireland, New york,Edinburgh, Italy.

11. What is your favourite television show? Eastenders/Hustle/Luther/Come dine with me/ Panorama.

12. When is the last time you hand wrote a letter to someone? I write letters to the fella all the time, usually notes reminding him to feed the cat when I'm away, but I couldn't possibly tell you what the others say ;)

And here are my 12 questions:

1. What makes you angry and why?
2.Who was the most influential person in your childhood, good or bad?
3. Sun and sea/snow and mountains/ citybreak?
4. Who would your fantasy lover be and why?
5. Whats the first thing you would rescue from your house other than people if it were on fire?
6.When was the last time you cried?
7. Do you have any sayings or cliches that your parents always said to you when you were young that you say now?
8. When was the last time you laughed out loud?
10.Whats the best job you've ever had?
11. Grumpy or full of energy in the morning?
12. Sweet tooth or savoury?


Friday, 17 February 2012


My dad is a bit of an enigma to me, obviously decipherable in many ways but completely baffling in others. There are parts of his character that I will never understand in their singularity but when you put the whole thing together he sort of makes sense. Sort of. But he never fails to surprise me, with his track record you wouldn't automatically turn to him for support in a crisis, but a few weeks ago that's exactly what I did.

I didn't mean to or even intend to call him in that moment but I instinctively felt like I needed to. I was half expecting some straight talking acorns of wisdom to be rammed down my throat, after all, this is the man who tells me quite unashamedly that I was conceived in the back seat of a ford cortina at the prettier end of a cornish graveyard when he and my mum were in the fledgling stages of romance.

Yes really.

And this is the man who has told every man I've ever dated that when I was three I got out of the paddling pool naked as a jay bird and took a dump on the steps in our then garden in full view of the neighbours.

Embarrassed much? Not really, the plus side of growing up with a dad who is straight talking, direct and brashly open is that I am mostly not easy to embarrass now. I've heard it all, and in a funny sort of way my openness is a gift from him. I've always being drawn to real, open people, anything other than that confuses me or at the very least makes me suspicious.

But with his direct manner, banter, penchant for the 'F' word and 'a mans man' approach to life, is the other part to him. The bit he wont let anyone reach, the emotionally hard part, his achilles heel, the part I've tried to drag out of him with questions, demands, furious reproaches and the silent treatment.

None of that worked.

Understanding your parents helps you understand yourself and in many ways I do, I can attribute my stubbornness, wanderlust, determination and openness to him, as well as my sense of humour and we have the same toes and cheekbones. But I don't see myself in his self centred behaviour or in his ability to be so fickle and throw away with peoples' hearts.

Maybe I needed a kick up the arse when I called him.

I didn't get one, what I did get was a frank discussion about being true to myself, empathy and 'I love you'.
Sometimes you get what you need in unexpected places or in unexpected ways, sometimes people surprise you, sometimes they don't. It's easy to write people off because they don't behave as we do or because we want them to be a certain way.

And that's a shame because one day that person may just prove you wrong, have a change of heart or be there when absolutely no one else in the world is.


Lately I've been feeling a bit wonky, I hate winter, the grey days and persistent rain leave me feeling a bit blue and well, wonky. Now I'm not sure what your version of wonky is but my version of wonky consists of a really foul mood, thinking too much and getting very run down indeed. Winter effectively makes me think too much, how clever of it, who'd have thunk it? Thinking can be a good thing, it can make us change things that need to be changed but my thinking isn't really a good thing, it makes me dizzy. I can worry for england me, in fact I submitted my application to the olympics but they declined, told me I'd have to give up the cigs first. 

I've worried about everything and anything conceivably possible such as:
  • Am I getting too old to pursue the career I really want
  • How long will it take me to get the career I really want
  • What if I want babies soon, what will happen to my studies then
  • Are the lines under my eyes clearly visible to everyone else or is that just me being neurotic
  • Am I being too complacent in my relationship with the fella
  • Is the fella being too complacent in his relationship with me
  • Should I get another cat, will my current cat accept that
  • Should I spend the last of my savings on travel or should I save it for a rainy day
  • What if I always feel like this
  • I'm not socialising enough
  • What if I get pregnant and I get really glum like this
  • What if I cant get pregnant. 

On and on it goes until i'm waking up in the middle of the night in cold sweats and do you know I think it's my fast approaching thirty thats doing it. All of a sudden I feel that there is no time to piss about anymore, that I need to be a grown up and make responsible decisions that will inform my future and it all seems so, immediate. Worrying is futile, I know that but it doesn't mean I can switch the worry button off. A good month or so these worries were in my head, taunting me until I poured my heart out to a friend and this is what he said to me, 'You're not a conventional person and you don't follow conventional rules so why are you doing that now? Stop letting other people condition you, don't worry about where you will get and when and whether or not you'll have babies and when. It will happen when you want it too. Look at all the positive things you have now and be grateful'.

It was like a light being switched on in my head, from that moment I let it go (most of it) and stopped worrying so much, he is right, I'd felt the pressure of what other people and society in general had expected of me at one time or other and I was incredulous that I'd allowed myself to play the imaginary milestone game.

And so I took a step back and looked all the positives in my life or at least the positive things that have been in the last month, during my awful wonky winter,
  • I've learned to bake and actually quite well, nigella has stiff competition in the food porn stakes now. Yeah o.k I know I haven't got the tits for it but I can still drop a sex face on demand.
  • Decided to be a counsellor a few years back. Told everyone I was going to be a counsellor. Enrolled on my third year in january. Changed my mind about being a counsellor. Told everyone I'm not going to pursue counselling after this year. Feel elated.
  • Impulse booked a mini break to barcelona in march for fellas birthday. Am now skint, but thats o.k cos I get to go and drink sangria on the palazzo and flamenco like a floosie.
  • Grew my bikini line out. Try it. It's liberating and the fella doesn't mind. Woo Hoo!
  • Learned to laugh again and that's the best bit of all. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


The final piece in my mental health feature comes from jules, a trainee clinical psychologist who gives an interesting insight into the role and feelings of a person working therapeutically with clients. Jules graduated from Liverpool University many moons ago, and worked as an academic researcher in forensic mental health, working on projects for the University of Liverpool and Manchester University, the Department of Health and Prison Health.
 She successfully bid for an NHS R&D National Training Fellowship in Forensic Mental Health to do a PhD at Manchester (nee Carlisle) on the psychosocial needs of women in prison. Jules is also a contributing author in Brooker. C. and Repper J. (Eds) (2008) Mental Health – Policy and Practice. London: Churchill Livingstone (Chapter 6 – Women and Mental Health).

Jules is currently a Trainee Clinical Psychologist at University of Liverpool... feeling like she's never quite left school...

This blog is my own opinion and not that of the university, the NHS or that of the British Psychological Society.

As a psychologist it would be gravely unprofessional for me to divulge the contents of any therapy sessions I had been involved in.  And I would never dream of betraying my clients. However there is something to be said for the experience of being a therapist; one which changes with each client.
By the time a person comes to therapy, they may have experienced their problems for a considerable length of time. They may have tried many ways to resolve their problems, some helpful, and some not so. Crucially there is often a stereotype and expectations of coming to therapy which may impact on how it actually goes.

Clients can feel worried that the psychologist will analyse their every word or move; be subject to uncomfortable – almost telepathic - scrutiny, that they will be asked to behave in ways that goes against what they want, that their persona will be disapproved of.
 In fact shame and guilt play a familiar part in many common mental health problems. It is therefore unsurprising that the fear of these feelings being exposed is of concern.

 Importantly the client often feels that the therapist will judge them, and judge them in comparison to the therapist’s own life (with the fantasy being that the therapist must be a person who is ‘emotionally sorted’, and have a perfect set up).

What about me? What are my expectations of my clients? How do I feel?

 I’m not an automaton. I too have feelings; I have experienced complex life events; I have relationships with family and friends that are not straightforward, loving and balanced; I have sometimes handled things ‘badly’.

What about my mental well-being? Have I suffered with mental health problems? Is it wrong for a therapist to offer therapy if they have experienced the same thing as the client? Some clients insist that therapy will only be successful if the therapist discloses experiences which are in some way similar to theirs. This of course isn’t true.

What is important is that we have a space to get to know the situation, and then each other in ways that are therapeutic. This does not mean that we become sharing confidants – there must be no facebook or texting each other – we never become friends. However there needs to be an openness to ‘like’.

 This might not be instant – either for the client or me. I have had clients whose beliefs are of stark contrast to my own. The client however will never know this. There are those whose behaviour is abhorrent –yet for my part, the humanitarian in me just starts with two human beings in a room. One will tell the other about their life and situation. I listen, observe and feedback - slowly allowing the person to tell their story, fill in the details of the background, and the colour of the feelings and emotions.

 I have to be patient. I try to see how the person arrived at this point, imagining (through the words they use) how they feel in the circumstances. I try to be mindful of who I am to them, and who they are to me.


Am I your enemy?  Your saviour?  Your Mother?  Your friend?

 I am none of these, but I have definitely felt like the mother of many clients, the betrayer to others. This is always difficult. I’m not a strict psychodynamic practitioner, but I always explore what they expect from therapy (which can be very different to what they want, or what they say they want), and explore their feelings in relation to me. I want to know what they think of my role. It can be really important – especially if they hero worship or come across as dependent. These can be tricky situations to manage well.

Working together the therapist and client form a therapeutic alliance. This relationship is of great significance to the success of the therapy itself, and like all relationships it runs a course which is not always smooth.
 This is a good thing. It has been shown by Hovarth and colleagues that when therapy is tricky, and it feels like the relationship between the client and therapist has some tension, those who can weather that tension (or any ruptures in the process), fare better in therapeutic outcome measures. In essence it’s like modelling emotionally healthy relationships; something some clients may have never really experienced.

In psychological therapies it is important that the therapist doesn’t just empathise with the client’s plight, which might seem kind, gentle, nicey-nicey or collude with them against the world. They must work with the client in a way that helps the client look at themselves, their role, potential traps and ways to avoid or manage pitfalls. This can be uncomfortable for some, and downright painful for others. Sometimes in therapy, I have bore the brunt of the client’s anger – in that coming to explore their feelings and role has left them feeling too exposed, caused acute embarrassment, or guilt.

 It has been all too easy for some to manage that guilt by saying to me “This is your fault”. “I don’t know why I come here, it’s not helping.” “I feel shit.” Providing I have paced and managed the therapy well, I never feel offended or frightened by the client’s anger. I like to see new emotions addressed.
 It generally bodes well. I do however help share responsibility – rightly or wrongly (some therapists would disagree).
 The client may not have discovered their anger without coming to therapy so in some way I do have a hand in it. It’s what the client does with that anger that is of most concern to me. I don’t want them to hit self destruct, spiral out of control, (however some do, self destructive behaviours can be comforting and ‘normal’.)

As long as they keep coming back to therapy, we’re likely to be on the right track. Similarly I don’t want them to over control, or contain that emotion – I find myself willing them to safely express. I hope I guide them to make their own decisions, take responsibility for their actions, but in a way that is right for them. I often wait, metaphorically with baited breath, to see if the client returns the following week; to see how they handled themselves after the session.
 I have a set of predictions of sorts, in which I evaluate against how I think the client experienced the session, and how they might respond to feelings or circumstances (based on what they may have told me about how they typically handle things, and based on my knowledge of psychological mechanisms).

 I generally resist the urge to follow-up and check on them (unless it is a part of the therapy to do so). But I want to know that they’re safe... as any parent does a child who is out without them. Essentially it feels like healthy re-parenting. Again me in mother mode...
Mother mode is clearly comfortable for me, but is it right? Well, not all clients bring that out in me – but it is the most common part of me as therapist. I watch for being patronising – or perhaps matronising.

Not all clients want or need (or like!) a mother figure, and not all clients need ‘re-parenting’. It is certainly not a requisite role to successful therapy. Indeed one could argue that it sets up a power dynamic which may be unhelpful. There have been times when I have felt blocked by a client (those who find it hard to talk about their experiences or emotions), I have felt somewhat intimidated – not physically, but certainly that the client is going to tell me what they think I need to know and no more.

 Such attempts to control therapy can occur in seemingly the most innocuous sessions, and can be managed over time when the client feels safe (emotionally) with me. Perseverance pays, along with a gentle manner – one in which mother can often be unwelcome.
There are clients who disclose that they pose a risk to themselves or others. That brings out a whole load of feelings in me. It is different for each therapist. But for me I feel a sense of responsibility, of fear, of concern. I guess for me it wouldn’t be normal otherwise. But the difference for me is that I’m not so overwhelmed with the other person’s emotion that I can’t see clearly, or help them explore what they feel or want to do.

 I’m also not so overwhelmed by my own feelings, which amongst other things can occasionally contain helplessness, inadequacy and anxiety. Their therapy is not about me. Yet, I am a player in that relationship. My agenda is help, safety and to do no harm. Fortunately, I’m in a position to receive quality clinical supervision, which allows me to explore my feelings in relation to any client or therapeutic work and helps to keep all on track.

There are clients with whom the therapeutic experience feels far more fraught - an engagement with another’s emotional impulses which may be difficult to tame, their difficulties not only stem from a variety sources (e.g. childhood, major life events, biology/physiology), but the expression of problems in one person can be various – depression, mania, anxiety, paranoia, voices and OCD. Whilst I don’t necessarily feel overwhelmed by that, to focus on it in writing has tended to force me to analyse and formulate which is something I didn’t want to do here.

This blog does not do justice to exploring other important therapeutic roles of transference and counter-transference. Indeed my thoughts and feelings about being in the therapeutic role are my own, and may be in contrast to the experiences of other therapists. It must also be said that this reflects generic therapeutic practice. It does not reflect how it feels to see oneself in therapy – faced with a client who is like me; has my life; has my experiences; has problems I have had.

 It does not reflect how it feels to see familiar stories – the man who is like my dad, or brother, the woman whose behaviour is reminiscent of a close friend, or the times when my own life events dictate the way I work. These issues will come up over my career, I’m sure of that - Resonating and reverberating, jolting and jarring my thoughts and emotional responses. I just hope that the quality of my care (for myself and others) is such that I can maintain the healthy relationship with my clients whatever the circumstances.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Teenagers and mental health

The next guest post in my feature on mental health comes from Angeli Sweeney who writes on the subject of adolescent mental health. Angie is a JNC Qualified Youth and Community worker, with a keen interest in adolescent cognitive development who has engaged with young people through detached street based work, centre based sessions and one to one intensive support.   Her project was funded by the Crime and Disorder department of the Home Office  to deliver targeted activities to young people who were engaging in or vulnerable to engaging in and committing anti social behaviour and crime. Her study experience includes Person Centered Counseling, Psychology, Forensic Science and Human Biology.

‘Young people are like waves; one moment crashing angrily against the rocks of parental authority and society, the next receding so quickly and so far away, you're not even sure they are there. Like the sea, they have many depths of complexity. Warm, bright, open patches of sun dappled brilliance with vivid and colourful reflections contrasted with dark, deep, cold areas of shadow. As parents, child practitioners and concerned adults, the trick is to be discerning enough to recognise when the tide/conflict is coming in, with what force and what it is bringing with it. If we miss the tide/conflict, we can lose vital indicators of development, and thus opportunities for support and mutual learning. But remember the tide always comes back…’

I have a lifetime of experience dealing with mental health. Let me explain; my mother, grandfather (deceased) and brother, close friends and for a brief period, myself, have all suffered from mental health issues. It is a topic and an experience I have lived with for as far back as I can remember. This, coupled with my innate need to find, explore and digest new information, has led to my understanding of mental health, its consequences and solutions, particularly in young people. 
When I was I initially asked to write this piece, I was at first taken aback, then humbled that I was actually approached to speak on the subject. Whilst writing it I struggled with objectivity as issues I write about are so close too and intermingled with, my own experiences. As a 14 year old, black, (uglyL) twin, who wore glasses, braces, had slow growing hair and wore non brand clothes, I was constantly ridiculed and taunted for my appearance. 
That coupled with the ongoing description of my character by my own family, as 'mady-mady', because of my impulsiveness and independence, I was a prime candidate for teenage depression. My saving grace came in the form of the word. I would write countless poems, songs, short stories, fill up diaries or devour 300 page books in a matter of days, all in order to get away from 'it all'.

Young People…Who are they?
During the stage of adolescence, the young person will exhibit behaviours almost alien to parents that can appear quite alarming, at times. A little distance from parents/carers is normal in this stage of development as young people seek to make their own decisions and pick their own friendship groups.  When it becomes a problem is when that distance and isolation starts to impact on normal, daily interpersonal interactions. Many young people react angrily and defensively when their space and choice to draw back is challenged, questioned, or sometimes violated. As young people develop and grow, they will on a cognitive level, push boundaries and try risk taking behavior. They will take their concrete operations learnt up to age of 11/12 years old, through observance and play, and begin to think abstractly, reason logically and draw conclusions from the information available, as well as apply all these processes to hypothetical situations.

 So when you ask you’re teen to do one thing and they do the other, it isn’t necessarily outright deviance, it’s merely that their response is ‘their’ response. Sometimes a teenager will do the exact opposite of what you ask, just so they can own their behavior. It is a healthy and necessary part of cognitive development and won't last forever. If the reaction is prolonged or unusually hostile, and even violent, then this obviously needs to be addressed.

Crazy Teens?
The subject of mental health has always been stigmatized and taboo. Though in 2011, we have come forward in leaps and bounds and made great progresses towards understanding and supporting mental health, there is still a long way to go in truly first recognizing and then helping to deal with this sometimes, highly debilitating and sometimes fatal illness. And it is an illness; anybody who says differently has a right to their opinion; but by definition, an illness is:

‘Poor health resulting from disease of body or mind; sicknesses.[i]

Present national statistics for mental health representation detail that in the quarter 1st Jan to March 31st, 2308, authorisation requests were completed. Of the total assessments, a higher percentage were female 1,238 (53.6%) and male being 1,070 (46.4%)[ii]Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain and about 10% of children have a mental health problem at any one time. Rates of mental health problems among children increase as they reach adolescence. Disorders affect 10.4% of boys aged 5-10, rising to 12.8% of boys aged 11-15, and 5.9% of girls aged 5-10, rising to 9.65% of girls aged 11-15[iii][iv]

The Mental Health Act of 1983 has been amended and updated to the Act of 2007 to encompass and include age-appropriate services. It will require hospital managers to ensure that patients aged under 18 admitted to hospital for mental disorders are accommodated in an environment that is suitable for their age (subject to their needs). This is on course to be implemented soon. This to me is a great stride in safeguarding the most vulnerable in our community and ensuring that the services they deliver are tailored and safe[v].

From when a child goes into puberty, their nervous, hormonal, endocrinal and physiological development goes into overdrive. Just like a newborn baby needs to sleep and eat a lot and be constantly stimulated, so to do adolescents. The massive and immense changes taking place in their bodies, takes precedent over nearly every facet of their lives. Girls will usually start puberty around 12-13 and boys around 14-15. Girls usually stop growing at a rate of 8cm a year around the age of 18, whilst boys on average grow 9cm a years and stop around the age of 20.

 A point to remember is that during this time, an adolescent’s centre of gravity is actually lifted up and the brain struggles to interpret this. This can be displayed as clumsiness, laziness and general willfulness. Parents who are not fully aware of these changes and there consequences, can interpret them as bad behavior, leading to outbursts, arguments and sometimes violence and abuse. 
Imagine the stress and anxiety a young person feels, like they are being victimized and attacked, for just being themselves. It can and does lead to depression and the need for the young person to break away from what they deem as a hostile environment. On many occasions, I have worked with young people who congregate until late at night, abuse alcohol and drugs; because they feel their parents/care givers are unfairly treating them.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence through to adulthood. Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity[vi]. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the 4th most common form of mental or anxiety disorder, with cognitive therapy and/or medication used to successfully treat it, in most cases. Most of these conditions can be diagnosed by a medical doctor or GP, but in some cases, young people will be statemented by child psychologists and psychiatrists at the bequest of a GP, educational establishment or parents. 

 In my professional experience, it seems that young people who get involved in anti social behavior and/or criminality, usually present with some form of mental health problem, the least being depression and anxiety.
30 percent of all young people given an ASBO have some form or mental health issue or learning difficulty.

Is It The Drugs…?
In my own experience, my brother withdrew so entirely from family life; I actually forgot he existed for a while. He was moody, insolent, harsh, cruel and continually feeling sorry for himself. Looking back, I didn't realise it was mental illness forming in his psyche; I couldn't comprehend as a child myself that he was slipping into a dark cave of helplessness. The times he did surface were only to eat, and go and congregate with friends, smoking, what I now know to be was Marijuana.
 We know there have been countless studies into the effects of marijuana and mental health; I myself used it for several years, only stopping abruptly when after an evening of smoking with friends, I went to bed and was awakened by nightmares and hallucinations that there was a killer dwarf in my pots and pan cupboard in the kitchen!

Weed has recently been declassified and is relatively easy to get hold of so many young people will experiment with the drug recreationally. Some people will say that it is harmless, while others maintain that in the adolescent psyche, which is still forming into adulthood, regular weed smoking can have disastrous effects on the mental health of that person in later life.

I've seen countless friends succumb to the illusionary effects of weed; one actually acquired a gun and came round to my university flat to kill me after he 'saw' me murder my then boyfriend on a Wednesday episode of The Bill! He was quickly picked up by his mother and sent to a psychiatric unit to recover. 
I can happily say that we still speak today. The ever increasing varieties and stronger forms of marijuana are contributing to higher than average case of psychosis amongst young people, in particular, young men.

 Young men seem to gravitate towards weed smoking because of their friendship groups, kudos or the curiosity and risk taking factor. Many believe that marijuana can be a gateway drug to harder drugs. This is not always the case, and most young people try it for a time and then leave it behind as they enter adulthood. What can not be ignored is that young people who use it, have a higher than average predisposition to mental health issues, which in some cases are actually drug resistant.

Establishing Need…
Maslow’s hierarchy of need details that 5 levels of need must be satisfied in order for in order to be comfortable in their environment, and even within themselves.
Physical – need to satisfy hunger, thirst, sleep, etc.
Need to be secure and safe and out of danger
Emotional – Need to belong, love and be loved. Need to achieve to be recognised
Aesthetic – Need to know, to explore, and to understand
Self fulfilling – need for self actualisation

According to Jo Frost Extreme Parenting Show, parents are not spending quality time with their children.  An average of 49 minutes per day was the figure furnished. This is shocking and deeply saddening, but in this increasingly hectic and chaotic society, where parents work in order to live, how can this be rectified? Couple this with family breakdown, or divorce and the child’s needs are being severely neglected. 

If Mum and Dad separate, or if older brother falls out with older sister and no longer comes to the house, whose fault is it? Often times, adolescents will shoulder the burden. Why? Because part of their cognitive development tells them that life is black and white, so if mum, dad, big sister, and big brother are not to blame, then they must be to blame. Feelings of insecurity, shame, guilt, anger, isolation and helplessness are created and then turn to anxiety, stress and depression.

We Don’t Need No Education…!!!
Howard. S. Beckers Labeling Theory[vii] ‘holds that defiance is not inherent to an act, but instead focuses on the linguistic tendency of majorities to negatively label minorities or those seen as deviant from norms. The theory is concerned with how the self identity and the behaviour of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them, and is associated with the concept of self fulfilling prophecy and stereotype’.

His theory backs up my own experience as a professional youth practitioner; in most cases, young people, become anxious and depressed because they feel that they don’t fit the social roles and what is classed as the norm in society. It has been a constant frustration for me as an individual and professional, that adults label young people with the 'hoodie', 'yob' or 'deviant' tag, and this is becoming readily accepted and perpetuated by the media and society in general.
 Long story short, if we repeatedly label our youth as bad, guess what they’ll be?

The educational system in Britain, is very domesticated, young people are expected to conform to one way system of learning. Young people spend a over half of their walking day in a classroom environment. Any youth practitioner worth their salt should be aware of the various learning styles that people, particularly young people have. Whilst one young person can assimilate information through written and spoken word, another can only process it through seeing and doing it. Anxiety of learning is a very real and increasingly common phenomenon. 
It’s not just the fear of not being seen as good enough or being labeled as ‘dumb’, it goes as far as young people, psychologically being unable to enter school grounds because of the stress and fear of not being able to receive the information taught by teaching staff. Some say this is a cop out, or an imagined threat. Let me tell you I’ve seen countless young people, on approach to school gates, physically shake, become agitated and loud and sometimes verbally and physically abusive, in order to get out of attending, as a counter attack to the war they feel they are about to fight. Studies have shown that young people who skip school are more likely to be involved in anti social behaviour.

Paulo Freire (1970), a Brazilian born philosopher, stated that poverty and hunger affected his ability to learn. He also spoke about the education system being a political tool. He is best known. For his 'banking concept on education', in which the student was viewed as an empty vessel to be filled by the teacher. He notes that “it transforms students into receiving objects; it attempts to control thinking and actions, leads men and women to adjust to the world, and inhibits their creative power".

School policies on bullying and inclusion may well be robust, but bullying can be so slight that it is not picked on by teachers trained or briefed to recognise the signs or triggers. Because of the highly sensitive nature of young people, a look, tone of voice, body gesture, can rightly or wrongly be perceived as aggressive or hostile. Peer pressure is not always necessarily linked to bullying.

 It’s more to do with the group mentality and the individual feeling ostracised if they do not copy, emulate or go along with what the other group members are doing. It’s about the young person feeling the need to belong to a group that he/her has chosen, and in turn, have chosen them.

According to a recent report published on Children and Young People Now website, the The Wasted Generation report details that one in four young people not in education, employment or training. The online mentoring service Future You who undertook the study goes on to state that 69% believe their talent is being thrown away. In addition, one in five (22per cent) admitted to abusing alcohol with 13 per cent resorting to taking drugs. Employment figures released in April showed that 963,000 16-24 year olds were out of work[viii]

So if young people are feeling so despondent and turning to drink, drugs and contemplating suicide, is it any wonder there are alarmingly increasing numbers of adolescent mental health cases. Chorlton Youth Project in Manchester has just finished a piece of consultation work (July 15th) asking 107 young people the biggest causes of adolescent mental health. The results were two fold; lack of employment and related self esteem, monetary issues and drugs.

Our House….
Camilla Batmanghelidjh of Kids Company states young people become traumatised by inner city, urban living and are exposed to threats, abuse and neglect within the home, but also outside of the home.  Kids Company seeks to provide practical, emotional and educational support to young people, as well as to parents who are unable to provide practical and emotional support for their children. 
I believe these threats and risk factors are linked to higher incidences and particularly, disproportionate amount of young black men represented within the mental health care system.

I’ve worked with some young people who have Border Line Personality Disorder, OCD and evident psychosis caused by emotional trauma from physical, sexual and neglectful abuse. Young people subject to sexual exploitation, molestation and incest, will almost always present with some form of emotional, behavioural and/or mental health condition. Sexual abuse is real, ever present and regrettably ever increasing. 

It can be argued that the current figures indicate a rise in these cases of abuse, or a increase in the number of young people reporting it or alerting an adult to it.
Iylana Vazant, in her book; Peace from Broken Pieces, speaks about the families pathology of dysfunction being repeated in behaviours of children, and if the cycle is not broken, it will lead to fractured minds, bodies and psyches, and a repeat of this destructive cycle.  I believe that cycle needs to be broken by adults in society, who are inherently charged with the task of safeguarding and ensuring the well being of our youth.

I can truly testify to this sentiment, as I and many other young people, witnessed and endured a mother with psychotic episodes. The feeling of helplessness, anger and sadness is colossal; a young mind doesn’t register the underlying issues and reasons behind the behavior; they just want and need to be loved.
 Low selfesteem and confidence resulting from ineffective methods of parenting, which do not instill pride and a sense of achievement in young people, is one of the primary contributing factors to adolescent mental health.

Lastly mental health problems due to genetic predisposition are becoming increasingly common, some forms of schizophrenia are actually inherited from a parent or parents. Though the Nature vs. Nurture debate is a hotly debated and long standing arena of argument, one cannot ignore the fact that familial culture and behaviours have a huge impact on young people’s mental state.

An old African adage states; ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. This for me is at the heart of recognizing, treating and supporting mental illness when presented in young people. We all have an individual and thus collective responsibility to raising the children of today. I am not yet a parent; I have yet to truly appreciate the joys and hardships of raising children. What I am is a proud and heavily involved auntie and God mother. What I am is mentor and available loci parentis when needed. What I am is a concerned, discerning, professional and experienced child and youth practitioner who is constantly learning and striving to create a better community for the young people I work with and encounter every day.


[ii] Mental Health Foundation
[iii] Health and Social Care Information Centre, Community and Mental Health Team. 
[iv] Mental Disorder More Common In Boys, National Statistics Online, 2004



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