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"I feel more confident and don't worry as much" - how Family Support helps improve mental health

Boy

Across the Archdiocese of Birmingham, Family Support Workers from Father Hudson’s Care work with schools to support families that are experiencing adversity. Of the many topics that Support Workers can help with, children’s mental health is a growing area.

Children like Oliver. Eight-year-old Oliver was experiencing anxiety, which caused him to worry greatly and impacted on his self-confidence. Oliver didn’t feel able to go to friends’ houses because he felt anxious, and his low confidence stopped him from joining clubs and being himself.

Feeling they needed extra support to help their son, Oliver’s parents contacted the Family Support Worker at his school, Diane, for advice. Over the next six months, Diane met Oliver each week for one-to-one support, to help him learn how to lessen the impact of his worries and bring his anxiety under control.

Together they worked through an anxiety workbook specially written for young children. This helped Oliver to understand his anxiety and how it affects his life. Diane supported him to complete the exercises in the book, which included relaxation techniques, tools to think more positively and develop his problem-solving skills.

Diane also worked with Oliver’s parents to improve their understanding of anxiety and ways to lessen the impact of worries. They worked together to develop strategies to support Oliver throughout his journey as he learned to cope with his emotions, so he can continue to make improvements and grow in confidence.

Oliver wanted to go away on a school trip with his classmates, but his anxiety had stood in the way of achieving this. Diane helped him develop a plan to lessen his uncertainties beforehand and to find ways to cope if he felt worried during the trip. Thanks to the support from his parents and Diane – and to the skills he had developed within himself – Oliver was able to join his friends on the trip and had an enjoyable time.

Since having support, Oliver’s parents noticed a great improvement, saying, “His confidence has really grown. He’s doing things now he never would have done before.”

By working together with Oliver and his parents, Diane helped Oliver to find his self-confidence and feel less anxious. His parents developed their understanding of anxiety and learned ways to support Oliver with her worries. Oliver’s confidence continues to grow – he has joined some school clubs, visits his friends more and feels generally happier.

Oliver said, “Diane was brilliant. I feel more confident and don’t get as many worries.”

/media/news/library/counsellor.jpgFamily Support Workers work in primary and secondary schools, providing one-off or short-term assistance, to in-depth support that can last several years. They work alongside other professionals and services to ensure the best outcome for the families they support in a way that meets their needs.

Selena was eleven when she was referred to the Family Support Service after a traumatic time at home. Her home life had been volatile, she had experienced domestic abuse from her mum and mum’s partner, and had been removed from their care.

At the time of the referral she and her brother had gone to live with their aunt and uncle where they were safe, but the trauma of Selena’s past had left its mark. She didn’t know how to trust people or let herself be cared for. She was experiencing anxiety and panic attacks, self-harmed and had suicidal thoughts. After all she had gone through she felt unwanted, unloved and alone.

Family Support Worker Chloe was assigned to help Selena rebuild her life.

Chloe worked with the school, social workers, mental health services and other professionals, advocating for Selena to ensure her situation was understood and her wishes and feelings were heard. This joined-up, consistent support was crucial in enabling Selena to feel safe, wanted and able to carry on with her life.

Each week, Chloe and Selena met for one-to-one support. These meetings allowed Selena to open up and share her feelings in a safe space. Outside the sessions, Chloe kept in regular contact through phone calls and texts. Gradually, Selena learned to trust Chloe and felt able to share the details of the things she had gone through. Thanks to her bravery in opening up and talking about her experiences, Selena was able to begin the difficult journey of overcoming her past.

/media/news/library/canva-girl-student-mabv4kr7rta.jpgChloe also worked closely with Selena’s aunt and uncle, supporting them to understand and cope with her complex needs. When she moved in with them, Selena didn’t know what a healthy relationship was like. It took time for her to trust them and to open up. With their continued love and support, and encouragement from Chloe, Selena gradually allowed her aunt and uncle to care for her and to parent her and her brother. She learned how to be a sister to her brother and not a carer. They are continuing to grow stronger as a family unit and to heal together.

After two years of in-depth support, Selena was able to be discharged from the service. She has stopped self-harming and no longer has suicidal thoughts. She experiences fewer panic attacks and knows how to cope when they do occur. Her sense of self-worth and confidence have grown. And although there are days when she feels sad and upset, she knows how to manage her feelings better and where to go for help. She is in a much better place and is building a brighter future for herself.

Chloe said, “When we met, Selena wouldn’t make eye contact and would walk around with her head down. Now, she is able to hold her head up high.”

Names have been changed to protect identities.

 


Family Support Workers work with children, young people and parents who are facing a range of adversities, including mental ill health. They work holistically to empower families to overcome barriers and bring about lasting change.

To find out more, visit the Family Support page.

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