Amy Madden

Extreme Challenges
Mental Health
Young People

The importance of supporting from people after difficult times

June 29, 2023

Trigger Warning: Suicide

‘I just want to go into schools, speak to young people and speak to them about Aleysha and keep her memory alive.’

I’m Amy and I am the founder of All Ears which supports the community in and around Wigan. I’m 25 and I’m someone who is passionate about supporting the community with preventative services but also crisis support as well.

I had a great mum and dad, and I a happy childhood. But money was a bit of an issue, and I was always quite aware of it.

I think the turning point from my childhood to adulthood was when I was 10. My mum came to pick me up from school and told me that my 16-year-old cousin, who was probably my favourite person in the world at that time, had been in an accident the night before.

He was in a coma and within a week they had to switch the life support machine off and that was my first experience of death. 

My family is so close, so it was absolutely horrible. You’re brought up with the idea of death as this distant thing that belongs to the old. The idea for example, that maybe your grandparents won’t be around forever.

But you never think that someone fit and young will be taken away from you.

I took on a huge responsibility of trying to be the person who could put a smile on people’s faces. I was young enough to be quite cute and old enough to be tuned in to the tragedy of the situation.

Afterwards I had a pretty normal school experience up until my last year of high school when I lost my best friend to suicide.

I think it was a couple months before we were going to take our GCSE’s and I was not prepared for it in any shape or form. Nowadays, I’ve been through my therapy degree and I’m there for other people now. I think I can see looking back that she was really struggling.

As a 15-year-old though I couldn’t and didn’t see it. So after her death, I struggled a lot with guilt and blame and thinking that I wasn’t a good enough friend. I tortured myself with it for years and years and years. Those thoughts come back to me sometimes and a lot of the time I have no control over them. Sometimes though, I can rationalise them.

I can do this by saying that she didn’t want to say how bad things were because she was protecting me; or that she wanted to put on a brave face, and she wanted time to escape how bad things were for a while.

My own therapy has helped rationalise the deaths of Nathan and Aleysha. I think that the way that I have lost people so suddenly has opened me up to not only grief but also guilt and trying to find someone to blame.

Often that person is me.

But I think that the care system that Aleysha was in and mental health services let her down.

Now I work with care leavers, and I see so many people let down by a system that should be in place to protect them; and who are not getting enough support to deal with the trauma that gets them to being in care in the first place.

It tends to be a vicious cycle where their children might end up in care as well and that’s detrimental to them and to their children and it’s just horrible to see.

I think this is why I do what I do currently because there just isn’t enough genuine support out there. 

The main inspiration for all this in general is that I didn’t feel like schools were doing enough.

I think about what it would have been like if someone came into school and talked to us about mental health, how to be a good friend, to notice a friend struggling and where to signpost our mates when we have no idea what to do ourselves.

I just want to go into schools, speak to young people and speak to them about Aleysha and keep her memory alive. So that the horror she had to go through wasn’t for nothing.

I went to university just because I felt like I had to, and I did psychology. I think I dropped out within 2 months. I got an admin job at a counselling group and applied for a counselling and psychotherapy course at Edge Hill. I found out early in the year that I had gotten onto the course, and it started in September.

But I was in a place where I was ready to help people. I didn’t want to wait so All Ears was born. It just started by going into schools and talking about Aleysha.

I did this for a while in high school as a volunteer. I then had a conversation with a lady who was working in mindfulness. She suggested that I set up as a CIC ( Community Interest Company)  so I could apply for some funding and get my degree at the same time.

On the 12th of March 2020 All Ears achieved CIC status (a social enterprise where 75% of your profits must go back into your business) but then of course Covid hit and for a while I had to think of different ways to support people.

My degree was also delayed but I just finished that this past year. When I finished that’s when I took the leap of faith into All Ears and made it a full-time job.

It’s strange because I always thought of it as something I did on the side. I had no idea I could make it my full-time job. But of course, I have always wanted Aleysha’s memory to continue so that’s why I didn’t want to put All Ears on the back burner.

And now, everything seems headed towards growth so that’s exciting.

I am the only one who is full-time. I think that bringing on new people is scary but within the next year or so I hope to have another three people full-time. This would support the work that we’re doing and increase the social impact of my organisation.

However, I never want to lose the ability to see the bigger perspective beyond the numbers. I think that sometimes paying attention only to the numbers and the social impact can stop us seeing the depth of impact for the individual person.

 This tale was written by Ava Goldson based on the interview with Tales to Inspire.

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