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Children's mental health

Raina and Audrey’s story

Understanding the impact of behavioural difficulties on children and families

Content warning: The issues raised and experiences shared in this report are upsetting and potentially triggering. They include domestic abuse, violence, racism, extreme emotional distress, and trauma.

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Belinda, Raina, and Audrey are one of the 18 families interviewed by Renaisi and Close-Up Research. Together we wanted to better understand what life is really like for children experiencing distressing behavioural difficulties, and their families.

Images do not depict the families involved

About Raina and Audrey

Raina does not have an official diagnosis, but she has been described by her therapist as having a form of affective disorder. Her behavioural difficulties manifest as being confrontational, mostly with her mother.

Raina also experiences extreme tiredness and a lack of motivation, and suffers from depression. She enjoys spending time with her boyfriend at his house, roller-skating, writing poetry and planning for her YouTube channel on meditation music. Her goal is to move out of the home she shares with her mother and sister as soon as possible.

Audrey also demonstrates behavioural difficulties. She was diagnosed with sickle cell disease at birth, and has access to a psychologist as part of her care team. According to Audrey, she was recently diagnosed with OCD, depression and anxiety. Audrey’s main interests are playing video games, Japanese culture (food and manga), cooking and roller-skating. She particularly loves watching streamers (people playing video games live).

Belinda describes her daughters as having two very different personalities. Raina is full of energy, and Audrey is harder to read.

I guess with her [Raina], you can read her like a book, so she wears her heart on her sleeve. Audrey, on the other hand, is more reserved, very calculating, very articulate. Because Audrey has sickle cell disease, so she's had to, over time, develop some resilience or some sort of coping.

Belinda Raina and Audrey's mum

Context

There were changes in Raina’s behaviour when she was at secondary school: she started dropping behind academically and taking less interest in extracurricular things that she used to enjoy. Raina reflected that it was a difficult time:

I used to have very bad anger management issues, which used to be aligned to adolescence. I had no patience for anything. The worst was when I got into a fight with a girl. Her and her group of friends were talking about me for no reason, and this was around the time when I was not in the mood for nothing.

Belinda Raina and Audrey's mum

Belinda didn’t fully understand what was happening, and what was driving her daughter’s rebellious and stubborn behaviour. She now attributes this to having witnessed and experienced abuse from Belinda’s ex-partner. She describes how her daughters have a lot of anger that is directed towards their mum.

It's been years of dealing with quite challenging behaviour with my children, especially the older one. As a result of a lot of things that come to light, relating to interactions with my ex-partner – verbal abuse, emotional abuse – things have come up, and anger towards me... It's been a long arduous journey.

Belinda Raina and Audrey's mum

Belinda says that her attention has mostly been on her older daughter, and that took a lot of energy. This means that Audrey’s issues largely went unnoticed until last year.

Current situation

The family shared insights into their dynamics and relationships with each other. Belinda recognises the girls are at an age where they don’t want to do things together as a family anymore.

Raina admits that she doesn’t get along with her mother. She describes Belinda as “stubborn” and “different from regular mums”. Belinda feels as though sometimes anything she says “is wrong” and she doesn’t talk much to Raina, preferring to give her space. This is to avoid an argument or any negative encounters.

Raina feels that her mum lacks understanding and is not able to offer emotional support. This means it is difficult to talk about things that are bothering her.

Because the way she grew up in Africa, back then they were more tough love... If I look at it from an outside point of view, there are certain traumas that she hasn’t worked through... because she wasn’t given the space to emotionally work through them, or the emotional support from that parent.

Raina

Audrey describes her mother as well-meaning at times, and recognises that she is trying to do the best for her, but says she can also be intimidating. Her mother can scream when she’s angry, which Audrey finds scary.

She has a nice personality, but it can be really confusing sometimes... She’s really passionate, but sometimes she’s too passionate.

Audrey

In terms of the relationship between the sisters, Audrey describes Raina as having a lot of self-confidence. She also characterises Raina as someone she can count on, who will stick up for her. However, Audrey doesn’t like to get into arguments with Raina, as she feels it is hard to get her own points across.

Raina finds it difficult to watch her sister going through her current challenges. She feels like she has to contain some of her own current experiences to avoid adversely impacting on Audrey.

Impact

The family’s situation is having an impact on different aspects of their lives.

The atmosphere in the house is often tense between Belinda and her eldest child. All three state that they have very few friends, with Raina falling out with her best friend, and Audrey finding that she is increasingly distanced from her only two friends due to her “antisocial behaviour”.

Audrey says she is still coming to terms with her recent diagnoses of OCD, depression and anxiety, which she finds overwhelming. Audrey finds school a struggle, and says it is hard to focus because of the tension at home. There was a recent incident of self-harm that took place at school, which resulted in Audrey being taken to hospital for observation. Audrey attributes this to having “a low mood the whole week, and it got worse”. She says that there was a really bad argument between her mum and sister, which took its toll on her.

Raina had largely negative experiences at her old school. She often couldn’t keep awake in class and the school kept punishing her, thinking that she was being rebellious rather than trying to understand what was triggering her behaviour. This meant that Raina would often stay at home instead. Belinda says that the school “failed Raina and… their duty to her”.

Raina had a year out and is now at sixth form. This school has been more engaged in working with Raina to give her encouragement. Belinda feels that Audrey’s school also has good safety nets in place, such as counsellors, and can address Audrey’s needs if an incident occurs.

Support

Belinda finds it hard to trust people around her, especially when it comes to personal family matters. She tends to avoid people who start “making comparisons, and making you feel as if you’re an incompetent mother or there’s something you’re doing that is bad”. She does have two friends who are close confidantes, and who she uses as a sounding board and knows won’t judge her.

It took a long time to get to the point of having appropriate support in place, and Belinda thinks that this should have happened far earlier in her daughters’ lives. Belinda has attended a parent group, which she found to be the most useful support she has received so far. She has also recently received six therapy sessions through her work. However, these are now coming to an end.

Belinda has access to two support workers from CAMHS and she contacts them whenever she needs support – to vent and to seek advice on handling situations. However, the hardest thing is not being able to reach out for support after working hours.

Raina and Audrey both see the same therapist, which they feel is beneficial as it’s an opportunity to speak freely about how they feel and what they are going through. However, Raina is a little less trusting of the therapist, as she believes he spends more time with Audrey. The MASH team have also been helpful for Audrey, especially as they have a named worker.

The future

Raina wants to take money she earns, and invest in the stock market and anything to do with artificial intelligence. When she finishes sixth form, she will apply for an apprenticeship to earn money while at university. She also wants to self-publish a book, be a mini-influencer, and grow a following to promote her poetry. She spoke about wanting a family of her own in a nice environment.

I want to be that family that can bring friends over and wish that they were a part of my family.

Raina

Audrey hopes to overcome her challenges and become a game programmer.

Download all family's stories

Families shared their experiences of mental health and behavioural difficulties through a series of interviews (in-person and online) and other interactive exercises. Read some of their stories in more depth here.

Read their stories