I got an incredible opportunity to speak to a packed room of health-interested adults last week. They were healers, helpers, educators and ‘advocates for health’ in professional roles as well as everyday life-role-models. I was sharing a bit of my story – my experience of Integrative or Functional Medicine, and encouraging others to listen to the story their body was telling.
It was one of those days I will never forget… and particularly because next on the stage after me was one of my modern-day heros; Dr Rangan Chatterjee. You may have seen him on the TV, he is the Doctor in BBC’s Doctor in the House series. He is also a familiar face on newsy chat shows on both TV and Radio. He has a brilliant book out – The 4 Pillar Plan and he is trying to shake things up from the inside of the NHS – why?
Because he cares about his clients.
He actually wants to help people get better, live better and live in greater health… not just ‘managing symptoms with another pill’.
He is risking sticking his head above the parapet, committing his time to the demands of TV series (I was shocked how much time these series take!), because he is committed to getting the message of true health out with the platform he has been given. I resonate. Not the TV thing, obviously – just feeling the challenge of choosing to be different and challenge the status quo – because I care.
ONE thing he said REALLY struck me – because it is relevant to the people I spend my time with.
Dr Chatterjee told a story of how one of his medical colleagues asked him (with incredulity) how he gets people (his regular patients in his GP practice – not the TV ones) to actually listen and do the things he suggests. Giving people recommendations for how they can bring their blood sugar levels down, increase their energy, decrease the vast array of symptoms from elevated cortisol levels etc. are easy to suggest, and for the patient easy to do and easy NOT to do. How is it that Dr Chatterjee’s patients are creating book-fulls of stories of incredible drug-free life improvements from doing the simple things he suggests?
Dr Chatterjee’s response was this: ‘In my opinion, as health professionals, the biggest tool we need to have is an ability to communicate. The question is really can you communicate and really connect with the person in front of you?’
I loved that answer. It is so totally true. It is true in the classroom, it is true in the playground and it is true in a family home. If we care about people and have ways to help them grow and develop and flourish, then we have to prioritise making sure we CONNECT with them, before we try and share any of the good stuff.
How do you know if you really connect with your clients, your patients, your pupils, your children?
And here’s the kicker. In a school, home or office getting people to just do what you say does not mean you have connected. Ask anyone who feels like they work for or live with a mini-dictator!!’ One of the survival responses closely related to the well-known ‘freeze’ is submit – appeasement. It is in operation so much in schools – and some homes. Dr Chatterjee does not have a power relationship with his patients. They are totally at liberty to walk out of his surgery and ignore everything he says, and maybe some do. But the majority don’t.
If you really connect then you will have people actually wanting to do the thing you suggest for them, because they know it comes from you genuinely respecting them, wanting the best for them, because they like you and because they trust you.
It is an important reminder for us all. Whatever our sphere of influence, are we connecting with those in our care? Are we growing relationships of trust and mutual respect? Do we honour those we work with, whatever their age?
The level to which we develop our communication skills and find ways to effectively, authentically connect with those we work with, will be the level of our professional influence. If we have any ambition to make a difference to others, or maybe even want to change the world, one star-fish at a time, we need to start with genuine, authentic connection.
This article was recently written for a newsletter going to all medical Doctors (GPs) in South Africa. More and more people in the UK, Europe and across the world, understand the future of HEALTH care is in Integrative medical approaches. His words are interesting for anyone interested in health, healing, potential and thriving in life.
This article is reproduced with permission.
NEWSLETTER TO GPs in South Africa
from Dr David Nye, Head of Integrative General Practice SASIM (South African Society for Integrative Medicine)
“Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to attend a life-changing presentation by Dr Melanie Salmon at the monthly SASIM meeting in South Africa. As many of you may know, Melanie introduced TRE [Trauma Releasing Exercise] to South Africa over the past 10 years. Previously she practiced as a GP and Counsellor (Gestalt Psychotherapist) in the UK for 40 years.
On this occasion she presented her unique treatment called Quantum Energy Coaching [QEC]. This concept is so exciting I felt compelled to share it with all of you, who did not have the opportunity to hear it first-hand. QEC is based in neuroscience and is a distillation of: Gestalt Coaching, Focused Intention, Brain Gym, Cardiac Coherence, Neuroplasticity, Neurogenesis and Kinesiology. Basically, it is a quick and efficient means of imprinting positive affirmations on the subconscious mind.
Melanie was greatly impressed by the ground-breaking work of Dr. Bruce Lipton, published in his book “The Biology of Belief”. He showed scientifically, that the foundation of most ailments lies in negative, limiting thinking. As we now know, we are not controlled by our genes, but by epigenetic influences of toxicity, lifestyle, nutrition, stress, etc. The most powerful of these epigenetic influences are our thoughts.
Lipton was the first to show that if we want to make permanent changes in our lives, we need to find methods able to change thinking at the subconscious level of the mind. He demonstrated that humans operate 5% of the time in the conscious mind and 95% of the time in the subconscious. It is our negative subconscious thought patterns that hold us back from achieving our best, and it is those same thought patterns that underpin so much suffering in chronic diseases. How often do we find ourselves exhorting our patients to ‘think positively’, or to engage in years of therapy, only to be disappointed by the outcomes?
QEC provides a quick, permanent way of replacing the ‘negatives’ with ‘positives’, thus allowing the individual to move forward, freed of the baggage holding him/her back. Successful outcomes can often be achieved in one session of 90 minutes, but up to 6 sessions may be required in some individuals.
QEC combines well with TRE and other forms of counselling, and anyone can learn to do it. The scope of QEC is infinite and it can help everyone from those who are healthy, but wish to succeed in business, to those with allergies, phobias, addictions, mental and physical illnesses, to those coping with cancer. In this broken, traumatised and stressed country of ours, it is something that can change the present and future of every single one of us!”
Dr David Nye, Head of Integrative General Practice, South African Society for Integrative Medicine.
QEC comes to Birmingham, UK ~ May 2018
A unique 4-day training to become a QEC certified practitioner is being held for the first time in Europe in May 2018. Open to anyone who is a professional healer or mind or body. Many places already booked.
Further details, videos of participants, flyer and booking information is available here.
Children are amazing.
They have incredible persistence, creative thinking, problem solving skills and they LOVE tackling a challenge…especially one that adults have failed to conquer. 😉
So, why don’t we remember this when it comes to getting them taking their vitamins?
There is a larger issue at work here, which I need to mention. One of the strands in the current crisis in health care in the western world is dis-empowerment. We have learnt to dis-empower ourselves and give all power to doctors. We have learnt that health means doing what I am told to do. Taking what I’m told to take, regardless of the reasons, regardless of the side effects, regardless of how I feel about it, or want I think about it. This is a very dis-empowered place. It is a very disconnected place. We disconnect from our bodies, and so we disconnect from our ‘selves’.
Now hear me on this. I do NOT think doctors are a waste of time. No. The best doctors are those who empower their patients with understanding and a voice. Sadly many, especially those in General Practice, don’t have time for that, so it comes back to “what’s wrong? Take this pill to feel better.” [Maybe this is a blog for another time, but I see a strong correlation here to the dis-empowered place that we nurture in kids… one which progresses into them being on the playground, club, alley way, or party and are so used to just putting any pill in their mouth when they are told to without question or discernment…]
So what does this have to do with children and vitamins?
If we want to do our own tiny little bit in helping change this and make cultural shift in our own homes, we need to start by helping children connect with their bodies and utilise all their amazingness to empower them to look after their own body.
When it comes to taking off-the-shelf vitamins, children often just do it because they are so laden with sugar that it is effectively like you are asking them to take a sweet daily: no problem! 🙂 The nutritional integrity of a supplement where the first or second listed ingredient is some form of sugar is always, in my mind, to be questioned.
However, if you ask children to take a top quality nutritional supplement, like the only one I recommend and use, one where the integrity of the product; the ingredients, the actual science and health-based reason for creating that supplement, haven’t been sacrificed on the alter of sweetness and the taste-buds of a generation of sugar-addicted children, then they may, possibly say “no”.
[**Incidentally if you want to know the difference or find out if you are wasting money on sweets or getting the real deal, The Nutrisearch Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements helps anyone get clear on which are quality products and which are not.**]
So what do we do?
- Do we let their bodies continue the mission of surviving in this day and age without the extra resources they desperately need?
- Do we allow our conflict-averse selves to believe that they can get everything they need from their food alone (a belief as outdated as ‘computers will never be in every home’).
- Do we try the stealth-ninja technique and hide crushed up tablets in smoothies, yogurt and juice and act all normal, expecting them not to notice? – well, maybe if the children are too small or they really don’t notice.
There is another way. It is a better way. A way that gets me emails of delight from parents celebrating their kids accomplishments (and their children’s pride in themselves) when they follow these 7 simple steps.
7 Simple Steps to Get Children Taking their Vitamins
1. ROLE MODEL – don’t expect your children to do something that you are not doing. If you expect your kids to take vitamins when you don’t, they may be getting a message that it’s ok for them but not for you – that they need it, you don’t – that there is something wrong with them. When a parent leads the way, children quickly watch, learn, follow and a culture of everyone moving towards health gets created.
2. TEACH them, at their level, why it is important to take extra vitamins/ antioxidants/ micro-nutrients. If you need help with this ask.
3. EXPLAIN BENEFITS to them – just some ways these vitamins will help their body in ways that are relevant to them, e.g. help your brain work better, help you be faster at running, help your body stay strong when there are germs around.
4. ACKNOWLEDGE you understand if they don’t like the taste. No matter what it tastes like to your palette, theirs is different. If they think it doesn’t actually taste great, you pretending like it does, or tell them ‘it’s not that bad’ can feel dishonest and like you don’t understand them.
5. ISSUE THE CHALLENGE “I’ve been thinking of how to get these in your body, but I haven’t come up with anything great. So it’s over to you. I challenge you to figure out a way to get them in you. They don’t have to taste nice, you don’t have to love them, I just wonder if you can figure out something I couldn’t – figure out how you could take them?”
6. WALK AWAY and leave them to it (age and safety dependent obviously). Children need the neo-cortex part of their brain to problem solve. When they are feeling under pressure from scrutiny, that part actually shuts off. So give them space, remove all pressure and leave them to it.
7. CELEBRATE when they tell you they’ve cracked it… big deal whoops, high-fives or a low-key 1 sentence if that’s what they prefer, but acknowledge their good job on using their persistence, problem solving, creative thinking and the fact they have found a way to help their body even better than you.
When children feel empowered and curious their resources are unlimited.
Children can do more than we think.
Don’t believe me?
Want to see more on what children can really do when given space to figure things out for themselves ? Watch this TEDx talk.
So the end is nearly here. And, predictably, the end of term phenomenon is in full swing.
What do I mean? The end of term craziness that sets in every year, about 2-3 weeks before the final day in school. The increase in energy, incidents, accidents and disclosures. Yes I know many, many children are super excited about the holidays. They are strong and solid and giddy in the affirming knowledge that their adults are equally looking forward to spending more time with them, and have special things planned. There will be fun, adventure, good times and lovely memories…
It is the other children I am talking about. The ones who do not have any sense of the adults in their lives longing to spend more time with them. These are the kids whose adults may actually be dreading the school holiday.
Whether they are some of the many on free school dinners – and parents are honestly not sure how they are going to feed their kids enough over the 6 week break, and aren’t living near a MakeLunch kitchen.
Or maybe theirs are parents who have to keep working and are stressed out trying to figure out childcare options that they can’t afford, mixed with guilt they should be – or want to be – spending time with their child.
Or maybe they have adults or older siblings at home they don’t feel safe with – or they do most of the time, apart from when they are on their own with them… or at night…
For these children the thought of the holidays does not fill them excitement. In fact it is the opposite. They are filled with dread. They probably couldn’t tell you why, but these are the kids who just know they feel horrible in their body. These are the ones who would, honestly, rather keep coming to school. Keep being safe every day. Keep being fed everyday. Keep being with adults who keep them safe and help them grow.
So what happens when children are anxious?
What happens when they are living with the lead weight of impending dread in their stomach? What happens when they feel the threat of the ‘holiday’ everyone else seems to be excited about, growing bigger and closer like a monster coming for them?
They survive. Some do it by increased flight, and literally use the school corridors as their race track. Others increase their capacity to fight. They might not be physical (although many do at this time of year) but they will fight with their words and try to make things be the way they want them. Others may totally shut off and shut down. These are the easy-to-miss silent ones I worry about the most.
When you put 2 children who are struggling on the inside – with different survival patterns – together it gets interesting. When you put many in a classroom of 30+ kids it can get crazy. When you put them with adults who are burnt out, exhausted, and mentally and emotionally already on a beach somewhere, it can get ugly. And the kids get the blame.
The children who are struggling need grounded, attentive, calm, adults around them now more than any time in the year. They need understanding to get through these weeks the best they can.
5 Questions for School Staff to consider
- Do you know any children who might be struggling?
- Where are you at? Can you see a pattern in your level of tired and your amount of smiles or your speed to snap?
- Are you coping by dissociating and not really engaging emotionally or mentally, with them any more – after all it’s nearly the end now…just a few more get-ups?
- Is it wrong for children to feel scared about their impending summer?
- How do these kids need you to be – how can you effectively support them? (Clue: it doesn’t involve getting angry, shouting, or isolations).
Many schools know this phenomenon to be real. Teachers are aware of it and work to keep everyone, including themselves, calm. They pull their pastoral staff off all regular groups at least a week early to have them be more available for responding to the end of term crises. They re-deploy these staff as a focused emergency response support team, without trying to squeeze these kids into an already full timetable which only increases staff stress and makes them less effective in helping these kids.
The best teachers in my opinion, are the ones who can be honest. School’s not out yet… there is still time for some learning – even if it is about ourselves and how we might be responding to these extra tricky kids at the moment.
How do you want to teach your children to deal with their monsters when they are on their own ’til September?
Other blogs for this time of year
Endings before they happen
Transition – What Does It Really Mean?
Many people have asked over the last 3 weeks, how did the HEADBomz video get approved? Were any Child Mental Health Professionals involved? Who were they? How could they? What on earth are the ISPCC thinking?
The official information from the ISPCC – states that they did research to ascertain that children’s mental health is an issue that needs addressing. After they made the video with Aardman Animations, funded by Vodafone Foundation Ireland, they said,
we tested these campaign ideas with four experts – two school principals, one urban and one rural – and two child psychologists – a clinical psychologist in Limerick and an educational psychologist in Dublin.
The feedback from this research was that a campaign like Headbomz would promote a culture around the importance of resilience within our children and that it was important that we speak to children of this age in a way that they would find entertaining.
The ISPCC will not release the names of these professionals for obvious reasons.
So it is interesting that the opinions of every single Mental Health Professional who has commented below, differ so greatly. Especially as these are all specialists in working with children.
Most child mental health professionals who have seen the video take less than 2 minutes (the time it takes to watch the full version) to know what they think : while there may be some appeal in it for some robust children, this video is NOT OK for certain groups of children.
The comments below are just a few of those that have been shared online. They are taken from Twitter / article – HEADBOMZ – the Talking campaign that made me talk and need to say THIS / article – DEAR HEADBomz ~ when will I stop seeing exploding heads?
I know there are many more in closed FaceBook groups. AS you can see – feeling among this group of professionals is strong!
With all this extra FREE feedback from child experts, it is nothing but puzzling to me why the ISPCC is still choosing to ignore these qualified, experienced, professional voices, and choosing to keep the advert live and being played extensively across TV, YouTube, Cinema as well encouraging it’s use in schools.
The HEADBomz video is causing distress and harm to certain children, and the professionals speaking out below are not OK with that.
Professional opinions on HEADBomz advert
As a Clinical Child Psychologist, it is distasteful, upsetting & degrading children’s very REAL issues Dr. Malie Coyne 🕊 (@MalieCoyne)
If even one child reports being disturbed by this, as a Clinical Child Psychologist that is enough evidence to STOP its’ use immediately. Dr. Malie Coyne 🕊 (@MalieCoyne)
An outrageously horrid song and video! I feel sickened and sad that this has been released by a reputable organisation such as ISPCC and really never want to see it again. Please ISPCC reconsider your position on using this material!
Dr Lynne Souter-Anderson, M.Ed, B.Ed, Doctor in Psychotherapy. MBACP (Senior Accredited). Director Bridging Creative Therapies Consultancy
I read your blogs with real interest. I have been unaware of this video’s release, and sadly for me it is another in a line of disparities between what is thought to be beneficial in raising awareness and support for mental health in children and young people, and what is actually useful….
As a professional and as a parent I would always support organisations seeking to raise awareness around the very real difficulties our young people are facing. However it does seem as if there has not been sufficient consideration of the impact on a particular population of children; those that the film ultimately seeks to help.
Certainly a blanket refusal to engage in open dialogue around even the way the video is circulated and presented is significant cause for concern.
‘Talking makes us stronger’ is an important message and whilst it is not the only one pertinent here, perhaps ISPCC Childline would benefit somewhat in following their own advice….and acknowledge that a positive response to talking also requires effective listening.
Dr Katy Farrell-Wright
Highly Specialised Clinical Psychologist.
(BsC, PGDip, DClinPsych)
I am curious to know why the ISPCC refuses to withdraw the video? Is it down to pride, cost, stubbornness or something else?
It also concerns me that the ISPCC aren’t interested. Does this just illustrate their lack of understanding of how some children struggle? Are they willing to open any form of dialogue over this issue or are they just not listening?
Surely they should be thinking of the CHILD first. And if their reasoning is that lots of type 1 children will benefit from it then can’t they compromise and remove this from universal viewing through TV, YouTube and cinema. Allowing the material just to go into a restricted environment, e.g. a school, where well informed Principals and school teams can decide how and if to show it would be less harmful. With the correct support and guidance for staff of course. Not ideal – but a step forward from their stance at the moment…
I am angry and disappointed that children, who are already struggling, will find life even more confusing or scary after watching this. And the ISPCC seem to be sitting back and allowing it to continue. It seems to contradict the title of their organisation!
I agree wholehearted with this article. The video is awful and I can’t image what idiots, with or without child therapy experience, approved it. I hope it was made by a marketing company, i get that, (words fail me if it was a therapist or assistant psychologist) but who signed this awful blunder off? Do the right think and remove it before it drives more children to experience anxiety.
Lorraine Debnam: Retired Psychotherapist, CAMHS
Working as a clinical psychologist, I applaud the idea of using child friendly ads to raise awareness of this area and encourage children to think and talk about ways to improve their mental health. However I find some of the content of this video disturbing and am very concerned that watching it may do more harm than good for particular groups of vulnerable children. I would encourage young people, parents and professionals who have concerns about this ad to raise them with the ISPCC.
Sally Ferris : ClinPsych, ASD Specialist
I lead a large primary school. Over the last few years I have taken action to ensure all of my staff team are trained in being aware of supporting our children who have experienced trauma. There are lots of them in every school.
I believe this video is inappropriate, ill thought out, potentially harmful and also demeaning to so many children that we are trying to protect, support and nurture on their journey towards health.
It may be a high quality video clip which, to some, seems light hearted and funny leading to perhaps a few children being encouraged to talk to someone. (Although I question the approach when the options for a child are for their head to explode in front of everyone or talk to someone instead. A fear-based motive for speaking out doesn’t seem to be a healthy approach for any child.)
However I feel the video diminishes the difficulties that so many children face when they have experienced trauma and feel unable to speak out about what they have been, or are still going through.
I would NEVER allow it to be used in my school as I can imagine how harmful it could be to certain children.
I am totally outraged, but also saddened and disappointed, that an organisation like the ISPCC is behind something which has the potential to cause harm to a child.
This video needs to be banned straight away. It is damaging and highly inappropriate.
Hannah Bridge MBAPT, MBACP
This is a dreadful video and I am concerned for all children who see it – especially children who struggle emotionally. I think it should be withdrawn.
Eileen Prendiville. E.C.P., S.I.A.H.I.P., S.I.A.P.T.P., R.N.M.H. Director Children’s Therapy Centre, Co. Westmeath.
We believe that this is a topic that needs to be treated with great care and unfortunately we feel this has not happened. We find that it could in fact be very damaging for certain children in that age group to watch.
By showing it on TV, cinemas and YouTube, many younger children will also see it which can be frightening and defeat the total purpose of this (video) campaign. It conveys a ‘talk or else’ fear based message which we cannot support. We also wonder about the credentials and competencies of the ‘child experts’ (who were consulted in the process) and who rated this campaign highly?
In summary PTI highly recommends that this campaign is withdrawn as soon as possible.
Monika Jephcott, President PTI. Play Therapy International.
Actually feeling sick after watching that. Shocking! I am a play therapist in Galway and work with a lot of children with anxiety. This clip feels quite threatening- if you don’t talk your head will explode! What an awful message to be giving children.
Linsey McNelis. Play Therapy Galway.
I am a play therapist and project worker in a marginalised community in Dublin. Both personally and professionally it is my opinion that this campaign is incredibly ill informed and insensitive. Aside from ‘talking about’ anxiety and mental health problems being difficult for adults never mind children, the actual content of this video is anxiety provoking and rather distressing to watch. It’s great to bring awareness to youth mental health but unfortunately this approach I feel will have the opposite effect on the target audience than what’s intended.
Jennie Fitzpatrick. Dip Play Therapy
Furious! Whoever decided that signing this off to roll out for professionals to use when they are working with children is insane and clearly doesn’t understand trauma and anxiety. They have neither experienced it themselves, nor do they have any real understanding of how to recognise it in the very individuals they are supposedly trying to help. This is a shocking and disgraceful clip that must not be shown to children struggling with anxiety issues, it is clearly sending out the wrong message which will set them back further, it’s too graphic and the language used is equally appalling. I hope the powers that be reflect on their choice after viewing everyone’s comments and withdraw the clip from circulation.
Michelle. Teaching Assistant
It is good that children’s mental health is being taken seriously now and there seems to be a growing understanding that stress and anxiety can have a big impact on children. It is a good thing that childline and ISPCC are supporting this campaign of raising awareness. However this video is not the way to do it. Children need to understand that anxiety feelings can be helped by expressing their thoughts, feelings and experiences through talking, creativity & play. To tell children their head will explode is not necessary and a lie. They may get the feeling their head is about to explode but this, as we know as adults, is different entirely. The video reinforces to an already anxious and traumatised child that if they don’t talk something bad will happen, like their head exploding! It’s an awful video and needs to be taken down and re thought.
Cara Cramp MA, MBACP (reg.)
Child & Adolescent Therapist, specialising in play & creative arts therapy.
Very disappointed in Childline for signing off on this. They had a huge opportunity here to really do right by anxious children by use of the media and they failed. It is being shown across the country, every time a child goes to watch a YouTube video they are being forced to watch it before their chosen video is played. As a Play Therapist in Ireland I feel sad to have seen this video. Sad for anxious children to know have another worry that their head might explode.
Anne-marie O’Riordan. Play Therapist PGDip. Play Therapy Wicklow
Well done Claire, You have really captured how awful it must be for a child in group 2 seeing this video. I think it’s really important that all childcare and mental health professionals in Ireland back you up and try to get the ISPCC to listen to us.
Linsey McNelis. BA Hons, H DipPsych, PGDip
I totally agree with everything you have said. As a Play Therapist I was horrified when I saw the video. I can see it really making anxiety worse for many children. Thanks for taking the time to write this excellent piece.
Hilary McFaul. Dip Play Therapy
I am a trainee play therapist & have an anxious daughter. I can see her reaction to this and anticipate the nightmares as she thinks her worries will cause her head to explode.
Sian, Play Therapy Student
I cannot believe that this video is being used to attempt to ‘support’ children. It appears to do the complete opposite by making fun of their pain, and then creating anxiety inducing images for their wonderful young minds to ‘mull over’.
Annie, Play Therapy Diploma Student
PLEASE FEEL FREE to share this with your community.
I am still really bothered by the ISPCC Childline HEADBomz campaign. It has been live across the Republic of Ireland for 2 weeks now, and for all that time parents, teachers, therapists, counsellors, and school Principals have been sharing their (and their children’s) experience of it on social media. It is still being shown on TV and YouTube, in cinemas and in schools (well – some schools, as more and more are choosing not to distress their children by showing it in class). The feedback falls clearly into 2 very distinct groups: those that love it and those that hate it. I understand why.
For the purpose of what I need to say, there are 2 types of children.
- There are those who are generally robust, able, capable. These kinds of kids have their nervous systems working well. They are unlikely to have any current mental health conditions, and are unlikely to have ever experienced trauma. They may have ‘normal’ concerns and worries in life, and will be able to respond when encouraged to let people around them know when they are struggling. These are the children who will find the HEADBomz video hilarious. They will laugh and give positive feedback about the video and genuinely mean it. These are the children that most adults think of when they think about ‘children’.
But in my professional experience I know there is a second group of children.
- These are the children who are already struggling with mild-severe physical and/or mental health conditions – whether they have yet been diagnosed or not. These are the ones suffering with OCD, anxiety, depression, PTSD. These are the Autistic ones, the abused ones, the sensitive ones, the fragile ones. These are the ones with learning and communication difficulties. I could go on… These are children who do not have the support of a nervous system that is working well in their favour. Children who are more literal. Children for whom visual image is significantly more powerful and impacting than group 1 kids. Children who are acutely sensitive – especially to fear. This group of children, if you are not already aware, is growing. They are a significant number in every classroom, every community.
This latter group of children are the ones we need to consider. IF we want to understand why so many therapists and experts in children’s mental health are so bothered by this video, and asking for it to be withdrawn we need to know this group is real, and just as important as the ‘normal kids’. They are living on every street, they are in every class, they will be sitting in every cinema screening. You may not be able to tell – that’s the thing about mental health issues – but they are there, here, among us.
I know these children won’t ever be able to tell the ISPCC Childline what they really think, or how seeing this video has affected them… but if they could, this is what they would be saying:-
Dear ISPCC Childline
There is something really bothering me.
It’s this new video. I see it in my head everywhere I go. It feels like I can’t get away from it. It’s really scary. I know it sounds silly – it’s probably because I am stupid – it’s probably my fault – most bad things that happen to me are my fault. I know it is a cartoon and it’s got a song too so I know it’s supposed to be for kids, but the thing is it makes me feel sick.
I see people, children, getting hot. I see their eyes bulging in their head and then their heads exploding. I know what it feels like to get hot, to feel my eyes bulging. So what scares me is the next thing that is going to happen to me is my head will explode, wont it?
I don’t want it to. I’m really scared that it will. I have started having really scary dreams about it… All from when I saw that video.
We had to watch it at school. I was sat in class and all the children round me started laughing as soon as the heads got bigger and exploded, which was right at the beginning and then over and over and over again.
A big hole got in my tummy. It felt like I disappeared. I got hot and fuzzy and felt sick again.
I really tried to not let my face go red.
I tried to not watch it, but not let them see I was hiding my eyes. They are my friends. They know lots about me, but they don’t know that I really struggle to be like them. I really want to be normal, and I try really hard. You have no idea how much strength I put into it… when all the time I just feel wobbly inside… I guess you’d call it frightened… someone said once it was anxiety. I don’t know about the right words. I just know it feels horrible, it makes me different and it stops me doing things and having as much fun as others.
I so want to be like everyone else, I want to be normal.
So when we had to watch the video and I saw them all laughing, I pretended to laugh too. For those few minutes I tried to pretend to myself that I don’t really feel exactly like the children in the video most of the time… Everyone else thought it was funny. I didn’t want to laugh but I did. I do a lot of things I don’t want to do. But I REALLY don’t want to talk about that.
My teacher was talking after it finished. I don’t know what she said. I could see her lips moving but I couldn’t hear anything. I just wanted to get out.
I got home and was trying to forget about it. My mam said it wasn’t real and I should just stop thinking about it. I tried. I really tried. I wanted so much to forget about the video and those pictures and the laughing song. I played football, but every time my foot connected with the ball, with every kick, every impact, I saw another head exploding and flying across the field. I can’t stop them. The pictures from that video are just popping into my head all the time when I’m on my own.
It got a bit better when I had my tea. We had my favourite and we laughed a lot at my little sister pulling faces. And then I watched some TV. And then it happened. It was there again. Instead of the adverts before my favourite program, it was that same video. That same song with the laughing in it. Those same exploding heads. Those children that are like me exploding.
I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move either. I can’t get away from it. Even at home I’m not safe from it.
My friend said she saw the same video when she went to the cinema too. I won’t go there anymore. EVER.
I wish I had never seen it.
My friend said that the only way to stop my head exploding was to talk. What did she mean by talking? Is this the talking she meant? Talking about something that bothers me? I don’t want to explode. What should I say? What should I talk about? I’d say anything if I could.
She said I should talk to you ISPCC Childline, but you made that video. You made that thing that everyone laughed at. I think you are laughing at me. You think how I feel is funny. You are making me feel unsafe at school and at home. I don’t want to talk to you – but I don’t want my head to explode more. I don’t know what to do.
I wish it would go away.
Please can you help me?
You may think that this letter from ‘Sam’ is a bit extreme. I wish it were. Sadly it isn’t at all.
I have worked professionally with enough of these kids over the years to know how they think, what impacts them and what life is like for them on the inside. Everything that ‘Sam’ is saying has also been echoed in comments from parents and teachers that have been posting on the ISPCC Childline HEADBomz Facebook post and the Vodafone Foundation post. You won’t find many of them there any more – for some reason these and many other critical or concerned comments were being quickly deleted.
Surely, what is important now, is the realization that this video is harming many children. Both those in the 8-10 yrs target group, and those outside it. Is this right? Should it be happening?
More than Marmite
I am sure ISPCC Childline were expecting that not everyone would be over the moon about the campaign – that’s life in the world of marketing. Some will love it, some will hate it. But the difference is this is not about Marmite. This is so much more important. The people who don’t love it have good reason – the MENTAL HEALTH and wellbeing of ALL children.
IF you know of a child who has been struggling because of this advert, I’d love to hear from you. These children’s experiences need honouring. They are important and need to be heard. Please contact me privately here, or scroll down (a long way!) and leave a comment below.
For those who cannot speak for themselves…yet.
If you want to find out more about me, and my expertise to raise these questions,
then please feel free to read my initial article in response to the campaign.
If you want to find out about what numerous children’s mental health experts are saying
about the HEADBomz video then click here.
If you want to read find out more about what is happening to children – in their own words and pictures
from seeing this ad campaign click here.