‘Northbound line’ to hope.

‘Northbound line’ to hope.

As a Hastings girl I am very much accustomed to an (Almost) idyllic scene of pebbled beaches and a burnt out shell of a pier. The air is fresh, the population is manageable and daily life is slow paced. It is not often that I venture outside of the perimeters especially not for the capital. But for Tuesday the agenda was a conference in London.  As I imagined, the London air was dark and thick; the pedestrian packed streets left little room for personal space, and the fast pace left me with a knowledge that if I did not think ten steps ahead,  I may be swept away by a tide of ‘nine to fivers’. This was a land as I feared where common courtesy was a foreign language. My lack of direction amongst the crowds of ‘those in the know’ was a stumbling block to them, as their seemingly drone like states forced their shoulders to clash with mine. Onwards they all went, eyes grey and ears connected to hands free technology.


I was left bewildered, lost, overwhelmed on the brink of panic with only flashes of place names on a screen and platform numbers to guide me. How peculiar that I was surrounded by a thousand people, yet never had I felt more alone. An old cliché perhaps, but its how it felt. My face could of screamed help me, if perchance a drone had broken free of the overworked daze consuming them, for enough time to just look me in the eyes. I realised that the only way to survive was to embrace the rush, to dive in head first and be assertive with my wording!


Through the fog and the turmoil I found my way to my destination and relief set in.

My destination was a conference in which services aimed at children, young people and families wellbeing had gathered for speeches, workshops, presentations and information stalls offering advice from sunscreen to sanity.  I joined ‘our’  stall and began talking to the attendees about our services.  As part of the ‘wellbeingprojects’ I was answering questions about our training packs, films and young people’s forums, and then the time came for Jude Sellen to deliver her amazing talk on the tricky and unspoken subject of youth suicide.


The crowd of 250 + stayed silent, transfixed and awestruck as they consumed the words being spoken. 

The audience, all belonging to agencies which at some point will engage with a service user whose thoughts may turn to suicide, were absorbing all that was offered. Their silence gave me opportunity to reflect on my day so far, the emotional turmoil that our young people go through on a daily basis leading to self harm, mental discomfort and suicide is not detached from us. My thoughts cast me back to Clapham Junction, to the noise and the chaos and the fear which was overwhelming, and realising that I had the tools to get me through. I had been given these tools with age, but I myself could have used them sooner.


There will be points in all our lives where mental health problems and mental illness may creep in, through loss, work, instability, grief, exhaustion, and London train stations; and with assertiveness and knowledge we’ll pull through. Our next generation need  access to knowledge about how to manage your feelings when anxious, fearful, distressed, where to go? Instead of providing a one size fits all cure we need to provide direction, we need to pull them from the crowds and look them in the eyes. STOP focusing on where we need to end up with them, and start focusing on the beginning and how we can not only guide them, but help them to guide themselves.  They have a lot to teach us, but we need to look up! Snap out of the drone like protocol we’ve become accustomed to, and see the human and not the service user. Use words which relate to them, not us. Abandon scales and coping strategies and triggers and terminology which holds no reference to the language held by our youth. Be innovative and creative, and work for and with them, not for targets.


It’s only when we stop attempting to quantify the data of the cries for help, put down our pens and hear what they have to say, that we can affectively help them.  But I’m rambling. What I learned at the conference is that although people are unsure of how to approach the tough subject of suicide and self harm, they wanted to help, they wanted to learn and that made the journey worthwhile; we have a mobilised force of inspiration leading the way, breeding change, returning the drones and coming together to ascend above the platform of Clapham and head northbound to hope.


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