Children’s Mental Health Matters

Children's Mental Health Matters

Earlier, I took myself to a coffee shop for some time out. I ordered my Caramel Macchiato (I know!) and waited for it, next to a group of women waiting for their drinks.

We all watched as suddenly a shouting match ensued between a mother and her child. The mum was trying to stop her son from misbehaving and running riot. I watched as the women next to me shook their heads in disgust, as the mother told her child ‘not to kick her’ in public. I got my drink and sat down.

I then watched mum and child sit down, next to a younger child who was with numerous bags of shopping. Myself and the rest of the coffee shop became uncomfortable as the boy kicked his mum constantly, and her trying in vain to stop him.

It was clear, that most customers in this busy place just saw an extremely bad and undisciplined child abusing his mother in public, but I didn’t. My experience as a Police Officer and my own struggle with mental health, told me that there was more to the child than just bad behaviour.

The conduct from the young boy towards his mother continued, with the affluent customers looking on with contempt for the child. With this, I stood up and went over to the mother and her two children. I asked if she was okay, and she thanked me for coming over to help.

I then spoke to the child, who I established was 12-years old. He swore at me, told me to ‘do one’ and called me baldy! I kneeled down at his eye-level and told him that whatever the problem was between him and his mum, that his behaviour towards her mum was not acceptable and that he was making the other customers uncomfortable.

The child continued to swear at me, but having realised that this went over my head and that I wasn’t going away stopped. He then tried to explain how horrible his mother was being to him, not allowing him to watch a DVD later at home and not getting a hot chocolate in the coffee shop.

I told the child that we all have arguments with our parents, but that they were in-charge because they were the adults and there to look after us. It took the child a while, but he warmed to me in particular as to why a total stranger would come over to his mother’s assistance, and not speak down to him.

It was weird, people looked on in the coffee shop as to my playing peace-keeper with relief, but for whatever reason nobody else would step in. This could be because it is London, and sadly this is sometimes how people act because of the perceived dangers in a big city.

We have become a society, were adults who need to show children the difference between right and wrong are too scared to intervene or help. I don’t think this is the fault of adults, but because of the fear that is out there with ‘how it may look’ dealing with children.

I remember when I was a ‘teenager’, doing my secondary school work experience at a primary school, a girl not that much younger than me hurt herself. I watched as two adults had to be present, as a plaster was put on her knee.

I am not a parent, but do have a lot of nieces and nephews and wouldn’t think twice about coming to the assistance of a child for fear that it might not look good. In some ways we have gone too far, between protecting children from predators and common sense.

A short time went by and I established that the child suffers with ASD (Acute Stress Disorder), a mental health condition. This was something I had never heard of before. It wasn’t a relief to me, as regardless of this I was still dealing with a child who by the nature of his age was vulnerable.

Mum told me that it was difficult with her son having ASD, and the child joined-in the conversation too, saying that he just gets angry sometimes. I said to the boy, it was clear he wasn’t a bad person, that is why I came over – he smiled. I guess he was expecting me, a stranger to tell him how horrible he was.

The four of us laughed for a while, whilst the youngest child tried to scare me by saying ‘boo’ about 100(!) times and mum relaxed. The 12-year old told me a few jokes, and I told him about me being the 11th child of eleven and an uncle to lots, one of my nephews having the same name as him.

Eventually everything had calmed down in the coffee shop, and I watched as the staff who didn’t intervene looked relieved and people continued chatting and drinking their coffees. I went back to my seat and drunk my now warm Macchiato. A little while after, the young boy and his sister came over to me and said ‘sorry’ for his behaviour.

I told him he didn’t have to say sorry, and that I understood he was having a difficult time. He smiled and shook my hand, as his sister continued to try and scare me with her ‘boos’! The boy told me of some comedians I should look out for, or maybe Google them.

Mum bought the two children their hot chocolates, thanked me again and left not long afterwards. When they went, I looked up ASD and realised that not a lot is known about child mental health. The mum was doing all she could to calm the child down, against all the odds and I admired her.

She was fair with him, but because of the child’s condition he could not reason initially. Naturally, the child wasn’t behaving the way he was for the sake of it, his ASD is not under his control.

I guess, the reason for this blog is to raise awareness of children’s mental health and to remind other adults, to trust your good instinct and intervene if you can when something is wrong. I didn’t get chance to relax in the coffee shop, but made a new friend. Mum told me that her child was under going medical assessments.

Before I left, I went over to the women who where originally standing next to me and told them that the child had a mental illness. Not, because I wanted to, but because I saw one of them make a sign to the others that the child was ‘mad’. Disgraceful really, considering these are supposedly adults.

You can find out more about Children’s Mental Health at Young Minds.

Max x

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© Kevin Maxwell Film, Media & Performance 2011 – Published by My Mum