So the year of 2017 is coming to an end. There are celebrations to be had as people complete their end of term projects, entertain us with their reviews and the season is started off as the College launches into the festivities throwing a glittering awards ceremony. On the face of it, all is well. So I ask the question in the immortal words of the glorious David Cassidy who died recently – “how can I be sure, in a world that's constantly changing? “
I am sat on a plane returning home from spending four days with my daughter. She is beautiful and clever - in the final year of her Economics degree - and I love her dearly. So why am I writing this blog after a four day holiday? Put simply, I have been challenged in so many ways in the last four days and no, I don't just mean the extreme cold temperatures of Reykjavik or the amazing heat of the thermal springs. I also mean because of the emotions I have gone through with my daughter. I have laughed and cried with her, become exasperated by her, been saddened for her and dreamt with her. I’ve shared so many incredible experiences with her, finally ended on the same page with her and become angry that she is struggling to get the help she so desperately needs but cannot access. She is on a waiting list and the longer she is waiting the more I can see her suffering.
My daughter suffers from mental health issues. More specifically she struggles with anxiety and depression. She is not alone.
According to the Mental Health Foundation:
- Mental health problems affect one in 10 children and young people. They include depression, anxiety and conduct disorder, and are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives.
- Alarmingly, however, 70% of children and young people who experience a mental health problem have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.
I feel lucky that my daughter will talk to me, but I am not a trained counsellor. She tells me that it helps because I listen and I don’t judge her – trust me, this can be a tough call! But at least I am there for her.
My challenge to all of you reading this is to also be there and listen to those around you. People with mental health issues do not carry a big placard saying “help me”. They look just like you or I. This is a really difficult time of year for many of our younger, and not so young students. They can find the pressure overwhelming at times. There are night clubs and bars to go to, peer group pressure to drink or take something to make them “feel great”, to stay out late and not get enough rest, putting themselves at risk – the list can go on.
They may not have anyone at home they can talk to or want to talk to, or indeed who will listen to them. There is a lot or evidence that talking therapies work with young people and we know that listening to our students is something Northampton College is really good at.
So in the run up to this special time of year, make use of your ears and mouth and try to be aware if someone wants to talk to you. Obviously we have the amazing trained specialists in our Student Support Services but sometimes it is just a quiet chat that someone wants and they do not want to make a big thing about it. It can make a much bigger difference than you might ever know.