Children’s Mental Health Week – Naval’s Story

My name is Naval and I work as an Account Director in Media and Advertising. If you had asked me ten years ago how my life would turn out, I would never have imagined that I would be where I am now. Today I want to share my story with you in the hope that it might inspire young people to open up about their mental health.

I had what many would consider a very troubled childhood. I was placed in care soon after I arrived in England at the age of nine. I hardly spoke a word of English at that time, so as you can imagine I struggled to adapt to a new language and a new culture as well as living in a completely unfamiliar setting away from everything and everyone I had ever known. I was taken into foster care as a victim of domestic abuse and during the eight years that I spent in care, I lived in 13 different foster homes, got excluded from my first school and spent 99% of my school life in detentions, isolation, and the odd temporary exclusion.

Foster care can be a really tough place, I experienced racism, segregation, and developed a lot of anger and frustration in my life. Over 10 years on and I still experience challenges with my mental health as an adult, but I have a much stronger grasp on it now than I did when I was younger and here are some things that helped me change my mindset and help my mental health improve.

It is healthy to open up to people you trust and have a good relationship with. I do believe the first person you have to learn to rely on is yourself, and if you can combine the help you get from others with the ability to also help yourself, you will be in a good place to go far in life.

What would I tell my 12-year-old self?

  • Self-love is and will become the most important thing in life and the earlier you focus on that, the better life becomes.
  • Focusing on a dream, or working on things you love will give you so much happiness and belonging.
  • Your disadvantage is your advantage! People will judge you, be okay with that because the element of surprise is often the best advantage anyone has to a quick victory. The skills you gain from care is often what adults spend years trying to craft for themselves. If you are fearless to talk to anyone, leverage that in building relationships with successful people. If you are a gamer and you are told that’s not good, You are strategic, a quick thinker, and a team player. If you are angry and always misbehaving (my personal favourite), you always seek out the challenges others are afraid of, you are also the quickest learner if things don’t go well, and the anger turns into focus, passion, and drive because you have a great challenge ahead.
  • You aren’t alone and other people have also experienced trauma and foster care and managed to build a life they are proud of, so there is a blueprint to get there.
  • The adults in your life are accountable for their actions and how they make your environment safe, loving, caring, patient, and somewhere you can express yourself without feeling bad. i.e. You are not the problem, they fostered you and took the responsibility to help you on that journey together.
  • Focus on self-love and enjoyment, be progressive with it and share those moments with good people that help you move up in life and bring you joy.
  • What you or other people may think is your disadvantage is absolutely your advantage!

 

Naval is the Account Director at SFS Media. SFS Media delivers innovative, digital communications that inspire and influence our verified youth audience with education, career and lifestyle opportunities. Find out more here

If you would like support around some of the issues covered, we recommend visiting the Children’s Mental Health Week website.