AFTER been made redundant from The Chase earlier this year, former school counsellor Sam Morris talks to the Observer about her new mental health charity for young people.
The last few months have been a whirlwind for Sam who admitted losing her job at the Geraldine Road school where she had served for six years had been ‘devastating’.
After mulling over ideas of what to do next she decided to start an online help forum on social networking site Tumblr, which has exploded with popularity.
“I started it as a ‘Dear Deidre’ type thing only it was ‘Dear Sam’, where people would ask questions and I would answer them and it has just gone mad,” said the 47-year-old.
“People from all over the world as well as the UK have been contacting me for help. We have been hit by near enough every country in the world.”
The mum of one and step-mom of two, soon formed her own formal support group called Safe with Sam which aims at addressing mental health problems in children and young people.
She said: “I think schools are trying really hard to deal with these issues but the problem is their budgets are being cut so tight, it’s like mental health support is almost considered a luxury. But if you stabilise a child emotionally, academically they will fly.”
Sam added that people suffering from a pure mental illness were still a minority but claimed more and more people now including children and teenagers, had psychological issues which were not always easy to diagnose.
“Sometimes it is just classed as bad behaviour and it can be missed very easily,” she said. “There are a lot of young people suffering from depression, anxiety and unfortunately there are a lot of people self harming now.
“Girls tend to go deep into their thoughts while boys may show more behavioural problems and project it.”
The Welland resident said she had witnessed a growing number of cases in recent years where added financial pressures on parents who had maybe lost jobs, had filtered through to their children. But Sam also claimed parents were often made scapegoats when the root cause of behavioural problems was something very different.
Sam said: “All I know is I have seen many, many parents who just want the best for their kids but I have seen quite a number of cases where they are blamed.
“Actually a lot of issues are caused by some sort of trauma, such as a bereavement. The loss of a significant person, such as parent, can have a huge impact.
“Separation can also cause huge problems, for instance when kids don’t get to see their dads. They tend to go searching for that father figure.”
Sam added: “Accidents can also cause problems and there is an argument for genetics as well. It is very difficult to say there is just one reason.”
Recently, Safe with Sam, became a registered charity and the service already has a handful of counsellors on the books providing support.
But there is one member who helps provide a unique form of treatment, Mr Kipling.
The sausage dog goes wherever Sam does and far from being a charity mascot, Mr Kipling is actually used as therapy tool.
Sam said part of her masters degree involved interaction with puppets, hers being an Orangutan called Basil, so afterwards she applied the same scientific theories to real animals.
“Mr Kipling sits with children who have got anxiety because his presence helps lower their blood pressure,” Sam said.
“I do a lot with him when addressing how kids feel about themselves. The way he interacts with them helps them believe they are lovable.
“I had one little girl who had been self-harming but her anxiety lowered straight away around him. He calmed her thoughts down and I was able to listen and talk to her. She was just scared.”
Despite the initial disappointment at losing her full-time post at The Chase, Sam still has a presence in the school providing one-to-one sessions and assembly presentations. But now with the freedom of working for herself she can now take her support to other schools around the county. Sam is also based at Malvern Cube community centre on a Monday and Tuesday for drop-in sessions and in September she hopes to launch a Skype service so people far and wide can access her direct help.
Sam said the support so far, particularly from her former sixth form students, had been overwhelming and hundreds of messages awaiting a reply in her Tumblr inbox certainly testify to that. But Sam wants people in her home town to be aware she is here to help.
She added being a registered charity would help gain recognition from the public and obtain funding, but she also called on local businesses for their support and sponsorship.
“I don’t think people realise Malvern has its own mental health charity, it’s very exciting and I just want people to come and support it a get behind us.” Sam said.
Visit www.safewithsam.com or type in ‘Safe with Sam’ on Tumblr and Facebook for more information. Alternatively email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07513 100583.