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October 2019

“I’m using my experiences to help other people with mental health problems” – Think Ahead participant shares her experience as a care-leaver with the BBC

This story was amended on 1 November to add that Kerry was also interviewed on BBC Radio Manchester, and on 19 November to add that she was featured in an article on the BBC’s website.

Think Ahead participant Kerry (pictured above) has been interviewed by BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio Manchester, as well as being featured in an article on the BBC’s website. She spoke about her experiences in care as a child, and how they inspired her to pursue a career as a mental health social worker.

Kerry joined Think Ahead in 2019 after graduating with a degree in Psychology, one of only six per cent of care leavers who enter higher education. She will qualify as a social worker after completing her first year on the Think Ahead programme in 2020, before completing her master’s degree in 2021.

From the age of four, Kerry lived with foster parents before moving into a children’s home and then into supported accommodation.

Kerry told 5 Live Breakfast presenter Clare McDonnell about her experiences: “There was a lot of abuse and neglect in the family, so it was decided that it wasn’t safe for me to stay with my parents as they were abusing drugs and alcohol, so I was taken into care.

“I moved through a variety of different foster care placements. Then, when I was about 14 or 15, I moved into a residential children’s home, which is where there’s lots of young people living together.

“I was quite unshockable from a very young age and I was very much the class counsellor that people came to when they had a problem […] I knew from quite a young age that I wanted to work helping people because it’s something that gives me a lot of joy and I find rewarding, and that I’ve got the skills to do.”

Listen to the full interview here:

Kerry was also interviewed on BBC Radio Manchester by presenter Mike Sweeney. Mike asked how she is planning to use the life skills she developed from growing up in care, and Kerry explained that training to be a mental health social worker through the Think Ahead programme is a way of doing that. She said: “I’m having the opportunity to use my experiences to help other people with mental health problems, and I think the fact that I can really empathise with them is really helping.”

The BBC have also published an article about Kerry’s story on their website. In it, she talks about her own experience of depression and how her support system helped her make it through. She says her Psychology degree made her realise how the environment a person is in “changes the way your brain works, even if you can’t remember it”.

Kerry explains that she knew she wanted to work in mental health, but initially did not realise how her ability to empathise could lead to a career until she found out about mental health social work. About her experience on the Think Ahead programme, she says: “I like helping people find their way through things and I like that moment where you can see something’s really clicked with someone.”

You can read the full article on the BBC’s website.

Kerry’s interviews took place during National Care Leavers’ Week, which was set up in 2002 by the Care Leavers’ Foundation. It aims to highlight the needs of care leavers, who face a unique set of challenges as they enter adulthood. It also aims to raise public awareness and encourage political debate about the lack of support on offer for care leavers.