Today I had a meeting with my teenager who suffers from Anxiety and depression and their school, namely their head of year and the school welfare officer. My child, who has asked to be known as Anon in any posts which mention their anxiety and depression, hasn’t been to school for almost five weeks because of their anxiety and their suicide attempt shortly before Christmas – see Suicidal Thoughts in Children with Anxiety and Depression.
As a family, we are receiving support from Gyda’n Gilydd (team around the family) who work with a family and other agencies who are already working with your family, or who Gyda’n Gilydd think might be able to help the family. They also offer advocacy service and we had our coordinator with us at the meeting to help be Anon’s voice whilst Anon explained what about school was triggering Anon’s anxiety and making Anon refuse to go.
Yesterday we had a meeting with CAMHS (See my previous post – CAMHS Update ) and it was suggested that we spoke to our Gyda’n Gilydd coordinator beforehand so that she could be aware of Anon’s issues so she could help be Anon’s voice in the meeting, so we met in a local coffee shop for a chat. Of course, I had to run back to the ATM as I managed to lose my money in the space of five minutes, which wasn’t a good start!
After our chat, we went to the meeting at the school. Anon coped really well as it must’ve been hard having to speak in front of all these adults about such a difficult situation. No teenager, let alone one with anxiety and depression, likes talking about their feelings or their wants and doesn’t expect the school to cater to their concerns. Thankfully, Anon’s school were keen to work with us to make school a less stressful environment for Anon and encourage their attendance.
Since Anon hasn’t been in school for five works (including the two-week Christmas holidays) and at Anon’s suggestion, it was agreed that Anon could have a phased return and not only did Anon make the suggestion, they also suggested the schedule and the school agreed to it. Anon will return to school tomorrow and Friday for the first two lessons and then will return home with homework to complete to stop Anon falling even more behind with their school work. Also as Anon has work to do at home and had been sent and completed work during their absence, Anon had been classed as “working from home” on the school register meaning their attendance wasn’t affected.
Once we had discussed and set the schedule for Anon’s return to school, we discussed the other issues that were worrying Anon. One of their main concerns was with one of Anon’s teacher and that perhaps this teacher wasn’t aware of Anon’s issues and that Anon felt like they were being belittled and ignored in the class. We had spoken to the head of the year before, but when it was pointed out that Anon would return to school if they didn’t need to deal with this teacher, it was agreed that Anon would no longer have this teacher and that an email would be sent to all teachers explaining how fragile Anon is mentally at the moment so to be aware. It was also agreed that should Anon suffer from a panic attack or feel anxious in any way whilst in class, Anon could leave saying they were going to the toilet and if they didn’t return then they had gone to the Hafan, which is a special unit where the child protection officer, who is also Anon’s head of year, has offices so that Anon can calm down. Anon is also allowed their phone, as long as they don’t abuse the privilege so that they can contact me if they’re feeling anxious.
I also agreed that as the bus was also one of Anon’s triggers we would drive Anon to school and home again, a distance of 10 miles but worth it if it means Anon goes to school.
Sadly, one of Anon’s favourite subjects had to be changed as the teacher teaching left the school and there is no other teacher to teach it. This has been hard for Anon as it was their favourite subject and there was no other class they really wanted to do instead. During the meeting, this was also brought up and it was decided that Anon would continue in this class till half-term but if they were still unhappy they could drop it and perhaps do something instead to help improve their confidence and self-esteem.
Anon is also under Trac in the school. The Trac 11-24 Service is all about supporting young people aged 11-24 who are at risk of being out of education and/or employment in North Wales and they will work with Anon in school to help encourage them in skills and support and to keep them in school rather than being one of the many children each year who drop out of school with no qualification. This meant that could run some self-esteem or confidence classes, maybe some IT or other computing classes to replace the class that Anon has had to drop.
The final issue was with some classmates. Anon had had issues with these classmates before Christmas, in fact, it was the messages that Anon was sent which pushed Anon over the edge and was the reason why Anon considered suicide in an attempt to get away from them and took tablets in a suicide attempt. We spent ages trying to reassure Anon that the chances were the pupils had forgotten all about it in the five-weeks that had passed, but that the school would speak to them and also if Anon felt concerned or threatened Anon was to go straight to the Hafan.
Finally, before leaving, Anon’s teacher said that she didn’t want Anon worrying all night so if anything had Anon worried, between then and returning to school tomorrow, Anon was to contact her on Facebook.
After the meeting, we went to wait for my other teenager and whilst waiting Anon saw their friend and went to say hello. Unfortunately, one of the pupils that Anon had been talking about in the meeting was heard by Anon telling someone to beat Anon up. This had Anon panicking again and anxious about their return to school and not wanting to go. Since the teacher had said to message her on facebook, that was what I did and explained the situation. She was really sorry to hear what had happened and said that she would see the student concerned in the morning and warn them that if anything happens they will be in serious trouble as the school doesn’t tolerate bullying and that they really wanted Anon to go to school, even if it meant they spent the two lessons in the Hafan as this student would be in the same classes as Anon that morning.
Thanks to the teachers’ reassurance and how well the meeting went, Anon is feeling a lot better about returning to school. What impressed Anon the most was how much they was listened to and how their concerns were acted upon and taken seriously. Which of course will help Anon return to school.
It is so reassuring to know that the school is so supportive of Anon and willing to work with both Anon and us as a family to ensure Anon feels safe and secure. When it was time for my eldest to go to Secondary school we had the choice of three local schools and I am so pleased that I choose this school. I know other parents would disagree and say that their child has had a completely different experience, but in mine I have always found the school to be helpful and supportive. Especially where bullying is concerned as both of my teenagers have had to deal with bullying in one form or another and the school has helped resolve the situation.