The GRIT story is one of growth and resilience. Centred around a sense of purpose combined with an intuition of what may help young people it has developed into a programme which has shown to be successful in providing support to young people at a challenging time in their lives.
GRIT was founded by Dr Louise Randall, a local GP, who felt there was a need for young people presenting with self-destructive behaviour to receive effective early intervention before the behaviour escalated to the point at which more intense treatment would be needed. As a GP Louise could see that there was a growing number of young people struggling with their mental health. Due to her own adolescence, during which she spent a number of years out of school in an adolescent unit where she was treated for an eating disorder and later self-harm, she was concerned by the influence of social media and peers on self-harming behaviour and felt she could use her own experience to provide support to young people.
Louise says “ My own experience of adolescence was not an easy one. I struggled with overwhelming feelings of emotions and it seemed to be that the more involvement I had with the support services available at the time the worse I became. Self-harm was common in adolescent units and it was not unknown for inpatients to encourage self-harm amongst others. Even if there was no previous history of self-harm. This is now a well recognised situation and owing to our knowledge about how the adolescent brain works we are able to understand why it occurs. However, I was deeply concerned when I can across Instagram posts and blogs which seemed to glamourise self-harm and give information on how to do it. Adolescents are particularly sensitive to their peers as well as having a strong need to belong and it is not surprising to me that groups of friends can influence each other in this way. However, I am very well aware that if these patterns of behaviour are not interrupted early they can escalate and the young person then becomes at real risk of developing severe mental health problems later in life. It therefore felt like my purpose in the sense that I could use my own medical knowledge and experience in a way to support these young people. I have to say at this point that had I known what this would look like 3 years on and known that group therapy to adolescents is perhaps the most challenging setting I might not have embarked on this journey with such enthusiasm! It has been a powerful lesson in so many ways and has required my own development and growth in order to support these teens.”
GRIT initially started as a multicomponent programme comprised of non contact boxing, yoga, mentoring and individual equine facilitated coaching sessions with our partner Learning to Listen. As we evolved and got feedback from our first participants a few things started to emerge. The 1:1 coaching was fantastic but it was starting to create a two tiered system whereby some teens would have the support to access the session and others wouldn’t. It also became less practical in the winter months as the sessions are help outdoors. The yoga was hit and miss – for a lot of young people who spend a lot of their time in a highly stimulated state the ask to remain still on the yoga mat was too stressful for some. The mentoring again was very much dependent on the young person – we have great examples of mentors really supporting their mentees and other examples where mentees have found it too overwhelming to engage with a mentor. However, almost universally the one thing the teens said they enjoyed the most was the boxing. Looking into this a bit more it wasn’t actually surprising – there are many anecdotal reports of boxing helping mental health, improving self-confidence and encouraging discipline and focus. In addition a few charities set up to provide boxing with the aim of improving mental health. The boxing also seems to provide that sense of community and belonging as well as an effective way of releasing stress, anger and frustration. Working with Learning to Listen we therefore deciding to use the boxing instead of the horses and create a group based programme using the principles of boxing to create metaphors that align with the life coaching skills used by Learning to Listen. Mentoring continues to be part of the programme and for the first time in 2020 we offered our volunteer mentors a 2 day training course through Learning to Listen in order for our mentors to be able to support the teens with their learning.
Interestingly, there are parallels with our programme and other specific psychological programmes available such as Dialectical Behavioural Therapy and Mentalisation which are available to people diagnosed with more severe forms of emotional dysregulation. There are many elements of the teenage personality which share traits with these disorders and we do not need a diagnosis of any condition in order for young people to attend the programme. This is a philosophy at the heart of GRIT – we accept the teens as they are and they are responsible for the changes they wish to make to support themselves in a healthier way with us providing a safe space to facilitate this process. In this way we can equip teens with skills that will benefit them throughout their life.
Through her work as a GP Louise saw an increased need for early access to interventions to support young people who are self harming.
The idea of GRIT and the GRIT team was formed. GRIT gained charity status in December 2017.
In April we began the first programme consisting of boxing, yoga, mentoring and equine facilitated coaching, supported by amazing fundraising efforts from a ball, donations and sponsored events.
As the programme evolved we were able to work out what was working well and what needed to be adapted to ensure that every young person had access to a supportive programme. The idea of using boxing instead of the horses was developed and a more structured group programme began combining boxing and emotional regulation and personal development skills.
With Lockdown in March we adapted and developed The Rumble - the boxing/ coaching programme that is unique to GRIT. We moved the programme online until September when we could resume face to face meetings once again. The development of The Rumble has meant that we are in a position to look to expand the programme and increase the area which we cover giving GRIT a number of exciting possibilities in the year ahead.
Once again all of this has been possible through grants, generous donations and the support of everyone as Covid has meant that our usual fundraising ventures have been unable to go ahead.