Marie Gibson shares her experiences of feeling ‘on the edge of services and conversations’, and urges us not to fail trauma experienced children by letting them slip through the very ‘nets’ that are there to help them.
A social worker who was writing a court report about me once described me as ‘sullen, uncommunicative and brittle’ and on the outside my 16 year old self probably came across that way. On the inside I was a scared, troubled and traumatised child. But to the people around me and the professionals involved in my life I was a problem. But whose problem was I?
My school attendance became a problem half way through my first year of secondary school and by the end of that year I wasn’t going to school at all. This was when I first had social work involvement in my life, as well as educational psychology and trips to the doctors where I was signed off school because of my mental health. I tried education at home and an offsite school but as a child full of unresolved trauma I just wasn’t able to do this. There weren’t any other options for education and my guidance teacher at the school I had attended seemed happy for me to not be there. I wasn’t their problem.
Police involvement came soon after that and I was forever being brought home by the police, arrested or reported missing. This meant regular social work involvement and countless reports to the children’s reporter. However, probably due to my mum fighting for me to be kept at home and a social worker who wanted the same, I never had to go to a children’s hearing panel. Although when I was nearly 16 my social worker wrote a report saying I was a high risk of reoffending and recommended a compulsory supervision order, this never happened and I was never officially ‘looked after’ by my local authority. I was never really their problem either.
Instead I ended up in the criminal justice system at 16 in the same year as I was detained under the mental health act in an adult psychiatric ward. In all of this time and throughout all of these services there was still no mention of trauma and the support I would need to overcome this. Instead I was labelled with Borderline Personality Disorder which caused further damage for years after.
As an adult, I was now someone with years of unresolved trauma, no education, no work experience, and a deep mistrust of the world around me and the people in it. I’d been passed around from different services who saw me as someone else’s problem to deal with. I had slipped through all of the nets, and it has taken me until I am 27 to really feel like I am beginning to work through my trauma and past experiences.
But I still feel as if I am on the edge of services and conversations. I have been told I am care experienced, but am I really if I was never officially ‘looked after’? Can I be involved in this conversation? I have been told my mental health difficulties are due to my ‘disordered personality’ rather than trauma, so can I really open up about my experiences without believing deep down it was really my own fault? Do I deserve the help from mental health services when they have made me fight to be heard for years?
How many other young people and adults out there have slipped through the nets? Those who have been on the outside. Those who don’t feel included in services supposed to be helping them. How do we ensure this doesn’t happen? How do we make sure children are given opportunities to learn and gain an education? How do we really become ‘trauma informed’?
About our blogger
Marie Gibson is a 27 year old Community Learning and Development student with an interest in sharing her experiences of social work involvement, the mental health and criminal justice systems and in questioning what it is to be care experienced. You can follow her on @mariesvoice_ and www.mariesvoice.com.
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