A Therapist Goes To The Palace: A Reflection - Helen Knight / by Richard Bentley

I was very excited to be invited to represent the ThinkWell therapists on a visit to Kensington Palace. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had asked to view The Stranger on the Bridge, the inspirational documentary of Jonny Benjamin that we use in ThinkWell.  This was part of a day organised by the royal couple to break down the stigma surrounding mental health issues, particularly suicide.  In preparation for my visit to the Palace, I had a haircut and donned some suitably smart clothes.

The visit was many things- many expected and many unexpected.  Kensington Palace was, of course, beautifully and tastefully decorated with everything smoothly organised. I didn’t feel overwhelmed which surprised me. I introduced myself to the young people explaining that I was available in a confidential space.  The ThinkWell space was provided for any young people who might be affected by the content of  the film. In this space, they could privately discuss  their feelings in a supportive environment. We offer this space for all ThinkWell workshops that we run for children and young people.  

I didn’t see the HRH's as I remained available in the space. It was over very quickly. I was out on Kensington High Street.  Now, I felt completely overwhelmed.

I felt so pleased and proud that I had been invited to the Palace through my connection to my daughter, Hannah, who is Managing Director for Pixel Learning.  Hannah has collaboratively worked with the Pixel Learning team to develop ThinkWell, a workshop that uses film to raise awareness of mental health issues to young people in schools and youth organisations. I felt happy to be walking down the road with Sam, director of The Stranger on the Bridge,  chatting away to me. 

I also thought that this had been a very high profile event which will raise awareness of ThinkWell and our mission to empower young people to talk about mental health. It was not a difficult day for me - I was well cared for (even receiving a special gluten-free lunch!) and everything was well organised.  The visit to the Palace made me reflect on my other experiences as a therapist.

I thought of the all days during my 40-year career in the NHS when I had traipsed around in the rain, travelling on public transport, to visit and engage families in my role as a CAMHS worker.  I thought of all the staff that I had managed and supervised, who had spent many hours in therapy with hard to reach families. I thought of all the creative individuals who I had worked with in the NHS - at all levels - managers, clinical staff, admin staff and others. I thought of all the teams that I had managed through all sorts of tough times - reorganisation, modernisation, efficiency savings, disinvestment etc.

I felt very, very happy and very blessed to have known these people. I remembered the families that I worked with in therapy. I thought - I am lucky to have had such a varied and amazing career.  AND I thought -  I love the NHS, I really, really love the NHS despite all its inadequacies and faults.

I shed a few tears.  I thought that I love my daughter for giving me the opportunity to be involved with such an exciting project at such a late time in my life. I love all the new connections ThinkWell is bringing me - connections with more young people and new creative people.

So, my visit to the Palace was very good for my well-being in a completely unexpected way.

Sometimes, it is a contrast that makes us think about life and evaluate it.

Thank you ThinkWell - especially Hannah, Sam and Rich (Directors at Pixel Learning) for giving me this opportunity.

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