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Case Study: Hannah’s story

I saw my mum fold like this once. She never showed me how to do it, I just had to learn myself. But I remember it. It feels like she’s been away for such a long time now. I miss her. Even though she’s only upstairs, I know she’s not really there, not since she’s been sick. It’s not a sickness that you can see. I bet most people don’t even really understand it. I don’t really. I don’t even think she does. It’s like she lives in a world in her head. The doctor says it’s called mental health illness or something. I don’t exactly know what that is, but they say it won’t go away for a long time.
It means there is no room in her head for anyone but herself– no room for us. My youngest sister has me to talk to if she needs help, but there’s no one really there for me. I think my emotions panic her. She doesn’t really know what to do with them. I think it frustrates her. I just keep my thoughts to myself. I don’t want to make things worse for her. It’s hard to talk to my friends about it. They don’t know what it’s like to be the adult for your parent. It makes me sad because I feel like there’s a secret section of my life, one that no one really knows about. It makes it hard to socialise.
I can’t invite my friends to my house. I don’t want them to look at my mum weirdly or laugh if she has an episode. I can’t go out with them either. I don’t want to leave my mum alone for too long. The last time I did that she was taken away for a long time. I don’t know how to explain that to my friends, so sometimes I just act out, tell them to go away or mind their own business. They look at me differently if I tell them what’s going on. They always do, eventually.
Kim helps sometimes. She’s my Social Worker. She makes sure we get enough money every month and tells me what to do or who to call if I can’t help mum with something. She makes sure I’m OK too. But I can’t tell her everything. I wouldn’t want her to know everything. She has to do her job properly. I don’t want her to take my mum away again or split me and my sister up. I’m OK. I’m safe. That’s what my therapist told me to say once. She said it was to reassure myself. Kim told me to go to therapy, and it helped for a while. I didn’t like talking about my mum in a bad way though.
I felt like I was telling on her. But it was good to have someone listen to you for the rest of it. It’s a shame you can’t take your therapist with you everywhere you go. I wish I could take her with me to school. Maybe then they would understand why I don’t always finish my homework and why I can’t stay for the detentions they hand out. Even though I have been in touch with people who want to help and I’m surrounded by people at school, I know I’m not heard. I know I’m not understood. I know I’m not reaching my full potential. This was me.
Over the course of the last four months, I’ve been attending a drama therapy workshop that Kim suggested I go to. It started making a really positive impact on some of the challenges that I face as I’ve been caring for my mum. It’s the first time in forever that people say I’m like myself again, and I can see it too. My mum has enrolled to a recovery college, so while she is there, I can go to my drama class. I feel like for those two hours a week, I have space to do what I want to do. I have space to explore new skills and I get to meet new people.
I have made friends with people who are going through the same thing as me for the first time. It feels so good to be understood and to bring that secret part of my life out into the open, because I know I’m listened to. I feel like I have a voice. And I know it’s respected as real. I feel confident and I have the opportunity in a safe space to express myself and work things out. This workshop has empowered me to be the best person I can be. And it helps me to take control of the situations that would otherwise take control of themselves.
The guys at the workshop respect each young person’s experience as individual, but not insurmountable when addressing collectively. Now I know I have a team behind me. My weeks seem lighter and I can see that I actually have a future.
This is me now.
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How To Support Young People Living with Parental Mental Illness

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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