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Chimps Crabs and Dark Clouds

I am (slowly) reading Prof Steve Peters’ The Chimp Paradox; I heard Susan Calman talk about ‘Cheer Up Love – the Crabs of Hate’ on Simon Mayo the other day and I have had my own demons to face with The Black Clouds of Despair.

This is Mental Health Awareness Week and there has been a lot of exposure about what we can do to support others and help ourselves. I still believe more could be done.

I have had to deal with numerous occasions when boys have been fighting with each other and on one occasion when 2 girls who had come to blows. On the face of it A hit B, B retaliated. When questioned further, A accused B of having said ‘stuff’ about her, B denied it, insults were exchanged, hair was pulled and punches thrown. I was asked to investigate.

Most behaviour policies in schools will have a section that declares that any child caught fighting will be excluded.

I’ve never been happy with the concept of exclusion unless a child has deliberately planned an offensive, hurt other students or staff or wilfully set out to cause maximum disruption.

Many years ago, during a quiet group teaching session, the fire alarm sounded. My small group of ASN pupils were bewildered and confused, but we gently escorted them outside to join their mainstream peers at the RVP while the senior management team radioed each other until we got the all clear from the Fire Department. No sooner had we all traipsed back in to school than the alarm sounded again. We sighed, groaned but duly congregated in the safe area to the rear of the school. The All Clear was given again and off we went back into school only for the alarm to be set off again. This happened a further 3 times until the culprit was apprehended by the police. It turns out he had been watching events unfurl and as soon as we started trooping back into school he set the alarm off again.

The over-riding reason a child does this, in my opinion is as some kind of cry for help. So of course he was permanently excluded and never returned to the school. It has to be said that this was not his first ‘misdemeanour’ and he eventually was given a place at an alternative provision. I’m certain that had we thoroughly investigated his home circumstances and had the appropriate services working with him he would never have come into the school full time in the first place. His story was appalling and in fact the first time I met him he had fingermarks on his neck.

Having completed my investigations into the girl’s fight I decided that pupil A should return to school with support and referred pupil B to her Head of House who immediately contacted Social Work, recognising as she did B’s vulnerability as the result of a very difficult upbringing.

We are still too quick to judge in this country and comments on Facebook of ‘odd people’ drinking on park benches, or ranting and raving at the world are seen as a source of amusement and derision by some. Perhaps if we had been flies on the wall and witnessed the abject abuse that some children have to endure we might understand why they try to numb the pain with alcohol or drugs and we might be a little less quick to judge.

Imagine a child observing their parent shooting heroin into their veins, or being raped by a mother’s boyfriend, or being woken in the middle of the night because their dad has broken in through their bedroom window hellbent on thumping his ex-wife.

This happens. Every day. In Britain. Now.

No wonder so many people face mental health issues. Don’t stop and stare, stop and ask how you can help and donate to Mental Health Foundation.

Chimps Crabs and Dark Clouds – a poem

screech loud and bang a fist

scuttle every which way

descend into hell

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