• Dawn Ford

Sharing With Others How We REALLY Feel

Updated: Jan 16


June 2018

Over a convivial lunch at a Bristol restaurant last month Ben Murray, 19, told his father that he wished he “could have shown more of my feelings, been more open, when I was younger”.

This is a quote taken from an article written by Sian Griffiths in today's (10th June 2018) Sunday Times.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/if-wed-known-ben-was-struggling-we-could-have-helped-ddkqvr6vp

And how terribly upsetting it was to read. A report published last year showed a fivefold increase in the last decade, in the number of Higher Education students who disclosed mental health concerns. This is an alarming statistic! As an ex-teacher myself I know only too well, how at times, you have to spread yourself thinly - a high work load, excessive admin and numerous meetings all eat into your 'teaching time'. I frequently spent extra time with pastoral care duties as my students experienced the devastating death of a loved one or the heartache from a broken relationship or the fear of facing homelessness.

Anyone who has ever taught will be aware of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - we all need to have a safe and warm place to live, food on our table, enough money in our pocket to live - these are the basics. But feeling like we belong, that we are loved is vitally important too, as is to have self belief and to have confidence. As a society I wonder if the latter crucial fundamental 'needs' are often ignored. Ignored, I fear, at our peril. When these are all in place, can we work towards achieving our goals, whatever they may be.


This article touched on three issues for me, one that mental health and the wellbeing of everyone; students, employees etc. has to be taken seriously and support must be available to all, everywhere. The second issue in this article is that Ben's parents were not informed of his mental health concerns. This can no longer be the correct course of action, surely when a student (or any young person) discloses severe depression, anxiety, self harm or suicidal thoughts etc parents need to be informed. Currently universities are reluctant to share information with parents about their adult children as they would be in breach of the Data Protection Act. Controversial, but I believe it must change and change soon.

"He had told the university months earlier that he was suffering from anxiety and had been pointed towards support. No one, however, had told his family".

"Now his parents are determined to get universities to change the way they treat youngsters struggling on campus. They want all vice-chancellors to sign up to a 10-point “suicide prevention” pledge this summer to inform parents when students are in difficulties".


This article also reminded me of Rio Ferdinand's superb book 'Thinking Out Loud'. Rio shares with us in his book the profound negative affect his dad's inability to show emotions had on him and how this became 'learnt behaviour' for him. He grew up doing exactly the same.. he struggled to show his feelings, and when his dear wife Rebecca tragically died he buried those feelings deep inside and in his grief he turned to alcohol. He had also had suicidal thoughts too.


We cannot ignore these tragic stories of suicide and the fact that men find it so difficult to 'talk'. This is a social problem on an epic scale. We need to encourage all children from a young age, girl or boy, to tell us how they're feeling and we need to really listen. Yes this needs to be addressed in the home but at every school, college and work place in the land too.