Image of Joe Wicks for Joe Wicks: Facing My Childhood

What ‘Joe Wicks: Facing My Childhood’ meant to me

Watching Joe Wicks: Facing My Childhood filled me with a range of emotions – proud to be associated with Our Time, and relieved that someone as high profile as Joe Wicks was talking about parental mental illness, and sharing stories reflective of my own experiences growing up.

Joe talked so openly about how his parents’ mental health issues affected him in childhood, and also how they continue to affect his behaviours in adulthood. I thought that Joe aptly expressed the emphasis we rightly have on mental health of adults, particularly as we cope with the aftermath of the pandemic. But, crucially, he questioned the support for their children. Did you know that over 4 million children in the UK have a parent with poor mental health?¹ I didn’t either, and whilst I now know I fitted into a whole community as a child of a parent with a mental illness, at the time, I honestly felt like I was the only one.

Many of the feelings that Joe, and the young people themselves, expressed really resonated with me. My mum suffered from pleural psychosis after giving birth to my older sister and was later diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder too. She spent periods of time in hospital when I was a teenager and I can remember thinking that something had happened to my mum, and that I may never get her back. I had no idea about mental illnesses… no one had ever spoken to me about them before and it felt like the heaviest secret. Lots of familiar feelings came back to me during the pandemic when my mum experienced another episode and I went home to care for her, alongside my dad. It made me think more deeply about how other children and young people must now be in the position I was as a young person, so I started my search for an organisation that supports these young people specifically. I figured there must be organisations out there now in this space… and I found Our Time – just one organisation in the UK that specifically supports young people whose parents have a mental illness. I’m now involved with Our Time, both as a volunteer at one of the KidsTime Workshops and also as a member of the board of trustees. I was so delighted to see Joe visit one of these workshops and experience the warmth, safety and open-minded space they create. And the fun! 

One of the young people in the film told Joe how his mum was the best mum in the world (despite her mental health diagnosis). I feel the same way about my own mum of course. She is the most kind and caring person I’ve ever met, and I’m so lucky that she brought me up in a house full of love, despite her own challenges. Having a mental illness doesn’t make you a bad parent, and if anything, it’s taught me great skills in empathy. But children experiencing this at home need the right support and safe spaces to feel less lonely, to be able to break through the intergenerational cycle of trauma and ultimately, meet their own potential. Joe Wicks is a fantastic role model for this, and I genuinely applaud and thank him for taking the courage to open up about his own experiences in order to help others. It’s helped me to share my story, and I hope that we can continue to raise awareness and understanding of parental mental ill health so that we can start to break down the stigma, and create safe spaces for children to be heard and supported.

Watch Joe Wicks: Facing My Childhood on BBC iPlayer.

¹ Public Heath England (2021): Statistical commentary: children living with parents in emotional distress, March 2021 update.