GABY’S STORY – BULLYING & ANXIETY

NB Names altered for anonymity

Social context

OUTCOMES and IMPACT

Now fully engages in tasks, particularly those with the horses and feels she wants to 'do the job properly'.

Is able to reflect on her emotional state in the present and recognise how she has changed over time.

Can attribute some of these changes to strategies she's learnt from the horses and can apply as a different way of responding to challenging situations

Is able to use mindfulness to experience moments of calm, that she acknowledges are welcome breaks from feeling constantly anxious

Involvement in bullying, is linked to poorer mental health throughout adolescence and into adulthood. Children who have low self-esteem, anxiety, behavioural, emotional, or peer relationship problems are at greater risk of becoming victims at school.

The association between bullying and mental health represents a vicious circle, where children who are already vulnerable suffer further at the hands of their peers, thus worsening their outcomes, and the likelihood of experiencing more severe mental health issues.

QUOTE

“Gaby massively struggles to open up in school regarding her emotions. We have seen a massive shift in her motivation and concentration in school since attending the provision. She now feels she has a purpose and achievable goals for her future and next steps after year 11. Your provision has allowed her to really find herself, recognise positive qualities about herself and build upon these.”

Background to case

Gaby is a 15 year old girl referred by her mainstream school for a series of 1:1 therapeutic sessions. She has a history of poor attendance at school, resulting in low attainment and low self-confidence. Her high anxiety and a history of being bullied mean she struggles to get on with her peers, isolating herself from all but a few and responding aggressively to others. Gaby also has a very kind and nurturing side, aspiring to be a nurse and being motivated to make positive choices and changes by the arrival of her baby sister 6 months before she joined The Seeds of Change.

Process at The Seeds of Change

Gaby initially seemed anxious and guarded but keen to work with the horses. Able to describe her emotions, she did so in a way that seemed detached and suggested many past conversations about her feelings and behaviour, with little expectation of change. By her third session she brought photos of previous work with horses. Though still uncomfortable with praise, she spoke positively about her achievements and opened up about the challenging emotions she experiences.

Gaby responds well to the physical closeness of the horse. Finding the heartbeat, watching and mirroring their breathing patterns and grounding herself through the physical sensation of touching their coat, have enabled her to connect with her own physical responses to different feelings.

Through commenting on the horses' emotional and physical state, she connected with how words such as calm, anxious or nervous felt in terms of physical sensations. Enabling her to see how she could influence the horse's state and the possibility of being able to do this for herself.

She has seen how grooming and managing her voice and breathing have a positive impact on an anxious horse, often commenting that the horse is, 'just like me' and understands that she can find ways of helping herself at anxious times by focusing on her breathing, too.