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Prince Harry, the 'box it up' grief model and why it doesn't work

Posted on 19 April, 2017 at 6:50


In a week when Prince Harry referred to his attempts to deal with the death of his mother, Princess Diana, by boxing up his emotions for 20 years, he clearly described how people try to deal with life’s losses and traumas by switching off their emotions. His older brother, the Duke of Cambridge has now also responded, saying 'it never leaves you'...'you never get over it'....'it's time that everyone speaks up.'

The ‘box-it-up’ method can certainly work for a while, as it did for Harry, but what tends to happen over time is that the lid of the box begins to lift on its own and all the guilt, anger and despair start to tumble out.

What do you do when that happens? An enlightened GP may refer you for counselling, only for you to be told there’s a three month waiting list, or longer. This is when the system becomes part of the problem rather than part of the solution. It’s clear we need more mental health practitioners and better mental health education too, so people can learn the mind management skills that become the building blocks of emotional resilience to life’s inevitable ups and downs.

Many years ago, I started a mental health charity called Reclaim Life in Bedfordshire and trained its volunteers in many of the core skills of therapeutic conversation. I’m pleased to say Reclaim Life is still going and still helping the local community.

I’m now working closely with Stephen Blackburn, Social Sense and the MindfulMe programme in the north of England, to introduce the wider community to the Fusion Model approach to mental health skills and training. Stephen also works for the Foundation for Ribble Valley Families and I’ve had the privilege of training and supervising their therapeutic coaching practitioners, watching the practice grow, with admiration, as more and more adults and young people are helped.

Word about all their good work has spread.

I recently heard FRVF have been nominated for an East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group Excellence Award, a real testimony to how highly their work is regarded by the CCG. Fingers crossed they win. How good would it sound to be able to say in their literature ‘The award winning Foundation for Ribble Valley Families.’

I’m proud to be a part of it.

Stephen sent me some client testimonials. This one caught my attention. It reminded me of my own experience of post natal depression over 25 years ago and how it started my professional journey to change the face of mental health for the better.

‘The Foundation for Ribble Valley Families has played a very important role in our lives as a family.

Witnessing my pregnant daughter sobbing, broken, desperate and in the darkest of places, hearing her say she could not carry on is, for a mother, the most unbelievable gut wrenching feeling of helplessness.

After trying and realising we could not be offered support for over 48 hours from her case worker; I knew that was unacceptable. I turned to the charity to help us! They did!

The foundation saw my daughter and me within hours. For my daughter, she was listened to and most importantly heard! For me, kind words of support, someone to share my fears with and an overwhelming sense of relief! She was safe!

My daughter was supported throughout her pregnancy, seen weekly. The life coach gave her time to express her anxieties working through them together; she was equipped to help herself feel she could take control, to learn strategies to relax; to cope.

This may seem dramatic but, now I share incredible moments and time with my beautiful daughter and grandchild. We are a loving, supportive family, however the Foundation for Ribble Valley Families came to our help when we needed it the most and we will be forever grateful to them.

Thank you!’

Changing mental health

There's no doubt that coach-counsellor integrationists are working at the cutting-edge of mental health. We are the trailblazers for a new wave of practitioners who are prepared to challenge the old ways and the status quo. We refuse to be tied to a one-model-for-every-client approach.

It's a privilege to be working in mental health right now. Although there are social and financial challenges, never in recent history have people been prepared to be so open about their own emotional well-being. Prince Harry’s honesty will do even more to help.


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