I first started working with Gina, 16, when another member of staff at school noticed that she seemed unusually quiet and reserved.
Initially, it was difficult to build up a close relationship, but as we got to know each other, Gina began to open up to me and her difficult home life became abundantly clear. Gina’s mum had been ill for three years and just the week I started working with Gina she was due to have an operation on a brain tumour. Gina’s relationship with her mum had completely broken down, and the only way Gina could find anything out about her mum’s illness was by speaking to her aunt. Gina believed, as she was not being told the full story, that her mum was dying.
As a result of her mum’s illness, Gina had taken on much of the caring responsibilities for her 12 and 9 year-old brothers. This, as well as the severe financial difficulty the family found themselves in, put an immeasurable burden on Gina’s shoulders and she was struggling to cope.
In fact, as Gina began to confide in me, I discovered she had even been having suicidal thoughts. I immediately referred her to local mental health services. As it transpired, the concerns that had led to Gina being referred to me were indicative of profound emotional trauma and depression.
Through counselling Gina’s health began to improve over time, and we worked on rebuilding her relationship with her mum. For several months, Gina had wanted to hide her depression from her mum and the head of year at her school. Gradually she became more willing to share her problems with those around her. As a result of this new openness, the relationship between Gina and her mum began to strengthen. Over time, Gina and her mum were able to openly discuss the problems each of them faced. Where previously Gina had relied on an aunt for information as to her mum’s illness, she could now discuss it with her mum. She learned that although the illness was serious, it was not terminal, as she had believed. Instead of internalising her struggles, which she had been doing for several years, Gina came to my office whenever things became too much for her. Just having the opportunity to talk to someone at school, other than her teachers, was clearly valuable for Gina.
While this was going on in Gina’s personal life, it was also my responsibility to ensure that she still had the support she needed to do well in her GCSEs and think about further education. I helped Gina with college applications and supported her while she was revising in the build up to her GCSEs. As Gina’s home life settled and became more stable her school work began to improve dramatically. Despite the extremely difficult circumstances under which she took her GCSEs, Gina was able to achieve 5 A*-C grades, including maths and English, which allowed her to gain a place at a fashion school in London.
Throughout my time working with Gina I have seen her grow into a happy and well-rounded young person. Gina now has a much stronger relationship with her mum and her mental health is constantly improving. I still have regular contact with Gina and her mum, and love to hear about how she is getting on at fashion school. The support I was able to give Gina in her final year of school had a profound impact on her school life and consequently her future. Gina’s head of year at school commented that “the support provided by SHS was invaluable to her achievements and success at school both socially and academically.”
*All names have been changed