Mental wellbeing for young people

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"I was brought up amidst destruction"

Gavin McKenna photo Gavin McKenna · 31 Jul, 2020

Gavin talks about how early trauma and neglect left him angry at the world, and what it's taken for him to face his past.

How you doin' guys?

My name's Gavin, I'm 30 years old. Originally from Newham in East London. Now living in Essex and I'm married with three, well two children, and one on the way. Almost forgot. Yeah man, and I found a company called Reach Every Generation. We specialise in serious violence, working with young people. We've got national funding for one of our social enterprise.

So listen, all of that's great and it's cool. Thankful, I thank God for the opportunities I've had and the work I've done, but I wanna tell you that it wasn't always like that. I wasn't always happy. I wasn't always married with children and a happy wife and two successful companies and travelling around the country, sharing the message of hope. Working in prisons and helping young people.

I'm what they call someone with lived experience, so for those that understand, I used to be a road man. So I was on the roads. I was a gang member. And I think what I'd really like to do is dig a bit deeper than that because a lot of people would take road man or gang members and make up a fantasy, but the reality is, I came from a lot of deprivation and I don't just mean financial.

Yeah, we grew up it was mad poverty, but also emotional and mental neglect. It was neglectful. I was abused as a child, like physically beaten. I witnessed domestic violence when I was young and I didn't realise the impact that would have on the rest of my life, on the rest of my relationships. How that would impact the way I interact with other people, the way that it would impact the way I view people in the world and so, I developed an aggressive stance.

I don't know about you, but I developed an aggressive stance and the truth is, some people become aggressive, some people become reclusive. Everyone responds differently to trauma. However, it nearly cost me my current situation. And that's what I wanna talk to you, I wanna talk to you about, how in my life I have things I never addressed or dealt with.

Even though I became a Christian when I was 20. 10 years ago, I became a Christian, I found faith. I was born again, I was reading the Bible. I was in, I completely turned my life around. Well, God did that for me, but I moved out the area. I met the woman I'm married to now, incredible woman, but you know what? I was so angry. But angry with that rage. I was in rage with stuff and my reactions, I'd just fly off the handle at the drop of a hat. I'd go mad for no reason or overreact to things. I'd be so like, what, what, anything, anything!

Yeah, I mean I wouldn't start fighting and going nuts, but I was at a point where I probably could have if I didn't retain myself and fix myself properly.

So, it got to the point where I almost lost my work. I was lashing out at work, working with young people, arguing with my wife, you know, it was my girlfriend. I couldn't maintain positive relationships. And I didn't realise that that came from the fact that I was brought up around destruction. I wasn't brought up around stability. I was brought up around fear and anxiety. And so, I suffered greatly with that, and because I was male, I was scared to talk about my feelings because that wasn't masculine, that's not macho, that's not real man stuff. I'm a bad boy, I come from the roads, How can I be talking about emotions and mental health? That's not me. I'm not a nutter. That's what I was thinking.

So, I had a warped view of mental health. And I look back now after I did two years of therapy, me and my wife we're happy now. Things are great. Been married nearly five years. As I said, I've successfully co-founded two companies with my wife, Reach Every Generation, which is nationwide. We've delivered training across the country. And I will say to you, the first thing I did was acknowledge that I had an issue and I hated that because it didn't fit right, but I realised I needed to address it.

And I think the best thing I did was address the fact that I was angry and the fact that I couldn't maintain a relationship and I was making other people unhappy. But actually I did two years of therapy at 28 years old. I'm now 30. We've got another child on the way and I'm blessed. And I just thank God because it takes time and every day is a battle, I'm continuing to learn every day.

So please don't put no pressure on yourself, you understand what I'm saying? It's gonna be hard, it's gonna be tough and mental health and emotions and hardship come out in their own ways. So, talk to someone man, take some advice. It could be of good joy man, things will change. If you put in that work, it will get better, I promise you. So, until next time, I hope you're well and you stay blessed.


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