As a 13 years old teenager my family fell apart after a very violent divorce. Our house was repossessed and at times we had no money for food. I would raid the bins for bottles to help feed my younger sisters.
It was a time which I found incredibly difficult to deal with as did my younger sisters. We were desperate - but had no one to turn to for guidance.
Unbeknown to me my brain was trying to cope and created a monster "anorexia" that almost cost me my life - however at the time I felt it was my best friend and I was the best anorexic in the world. I was the supreme champion of something as I felt I was simply worthless at everything else.
I would hide everything from anyone outside of my front door as not to attract any attention to the dire situation. I was scared we would be put into care and separated, or my mum would get into trouble in some way. I did not want to be responsible for anything like that - so I never asked for help or guidance from anyone even though I was distraught most of the time.
One particular day in school a maths teacher asked to talk to me - I stayed behind reluctantly and he asked me "Are you ok" those words stay with me to this day as no one had ever asked me that before.
I was mortified that I had allowed something to have been spotted for him to even ask the question - I was scared as I did not know what to say as I did not want to get anyone into trouble by a spotlight being shone onto my family situation - I was also desperate to breakdown and cry and beg for him to take me home and look after me and my sisters. However due to the intense fear I walked out lying that I was just fine...if he had pushed me for another 30 seconds I'm sure I would have broken down and told him. But he did not and I went on to the unknown.
That conversation was a life changing sliding doors moment - one which to this day I have regrets about.
My whole world fell apart not long after that moment. Many a day I would ask myself why I had been so stupid as to not tell him in confidence. The truth was I could not trust anyone. I had issues with trust.
But it made me realise as I got older and regained my mental health as well as physical health the importance teachers have to their pupils on many levels.
They see the young people each day and can spot early warning signs. In everything early intervention is key to either recovery or intervention of some sort.
I know all the schools I now talk in the staff are all very committed to looking after the pupils mental health with huge passion. They are educating themselves on all aspects of harm, abuse, eating disorders, depression, anxiety and suicide. Countering those with self-awareness, resilience and mental fitness.
Bringing these topics at age appropriate levels into personal and social education lessons (PSE) as they are desperate to tackle these head on and raise awareness ending stigma along the way.
It's something I'm incredibly proud to be part of across the UK.
However there is a way to go - all schools / universities must have these talks with honesty and integrity as soon as possible to mitigate any further issues and strain going forward.
So my message to all teachers from my own and my sisters experiences as a teenager in huge despair and distress - please reach out to the pupil in some way.
Pay attention listening to your instinct.
Report concerns to the appropriate people.
Please allow the trust to come as you can make a huge difference to their young lives as you all do such an amazing job at shaping the lives of the future generations - mentally and academically.