Raising teenagers isn’t supposed to be easy. We all thought my 15-year-old daughter Alice was being a typical teen – she was going through a period of playing up, being a bit aggressive and generally misbehaving. Until one day she tried to take her own life. And that’s when it hit me – she was struggling with her mental health.
It’s amazing how mental illness can be so hidden, and how it can take over anyone. It’s not physical, so people don’t see it. And because people don’t see it, they don’t understand it. Alice was disguising it through bad behaviour and aggression. The truth was that she didn’t care to live for the next day but never told anybody. I just thought — my God, where has all this come from? I’m a teacher, working with children every day. To have this happen to my kid was beyond shocking.
I’d rung so many different places for help but kept hearing “she’s too young, we can’t help her”. It was a constant dead end after dead end. I just thought – I don’t know what else I can do.
Within a few days from my original call to Foothold, I got a response with an offer of support for counselling sessions. My caseworker Jonas completely assured me right away that I had come to the right place to find help. He said, “this is what we do”. And I’ve always felt like he’s listened to me and given me ideas for other support we could access. Jonas has given me a bit of faith. He made me realise that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. We feel very lucky to have got hold of him and access to counselling.
Therapy brought Alice out of the suicidal depression in about three weeks. I don’t know what state we’d be in now if she hadn’t had the help. Would she still be looking for ways to end her life? She’s out of danger now and is working with the counsellor to figure out why it happened in the first place.
I also went to some counselling sessions to retain the strength to make the changes in my communication with Alice. We’ve been able to see our therapist as and when needed – with breaks in between and coming back when we need a session. Without Foothold, we wouldn’t have that kind of flexibility in support anywhere else.
The right person, the right treatment
Being able to choose a therapist really made a huge difference. We found the right person because we were able to try a few others who weren’t quite right for us. As a parent, you have to put your trust in someone who’s going to be on their own with your child, working through their issues.
Solution-based therapy isn’t just about having someone to talk to. It helps people to rewire their brain, so they no longer think how they used to. Some sessions have just been an opportunity for Alice to get things out privately, in a safe space. And in other sessions, they work on practical coping strategies.
Looking to the future
As a family, we’re in a different place now than where we were and we’re definitely on the mend. We’ve all started spending time together again and I’ve started to see Alice smiling and enjoying her time with us.
In the longer term I want to be able to get trained up so I can help with mental health in the school environment. There’s such a huge amount of pressure on getting results from pupils. The government has created a vicious circle which puts pressure on the kids to achieve. And that in turn is putting pressure on their wellbeing.
We’ve been through such an ordeal as a family – it makes me feel emotional just thinking about it. I’m just very, very, very grateful for the support we got.