Breaking the mould: rising from ACEs to academia
I’m 17 years old walking around Tesco and I see one of my teachers from secondary school. He walks over to me to tell me that he knew I would never amount to anything more than a benefit scrounging, council estate statistic. I am pregnant.
In hindsight, I guess statistically he was right (if what he said translated to being in receipt of benefits for a year). I had Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) growing up - 7 out of 10 in fact, in line with the original Kaiser ACE’s study. Statistically, this meant that I was seven times more likely to have a teenage pregnancy, 20% more likely to develop a drug addiction, and 62.3% more likely to suffer from depression than those that do not have ACE's. Interestingly, grit has been found to positively influence health outcomes and luckily for me, grit is something I score high in.
How do I know this? I have Arden University to thank for that. The knowledge of statistics relating to physical health and mental well-being outcomes on those who have and have not experienced ACE's and the role of grit? That’s my research.
After completing my undergraduate in English Literature and then securing a paid position on a train to teach program, I had an existential crisis and realised I didn’t want to be a primary school teacher. This was followed by an obligatory period of going back and forth, doubting myself and wondering if I’d made the right decision and most of all, what now?! Then it hit me - psychology.
Psychology has always fascinated me, but I let people make me believe that I wasn’t smart enough and that with my background, no one would take me seriously. I thought about what that teacher told me, and that was the moment I decided not to let his words hover over me like a rain cloud. At this point I hadn’t given much thought to a career in psychology, I wasn’t even sure I’d complete the course, but it was something I’d always wanted to do and I was doing it for myself. I’d done my research and decided that I wanted to apply to Arden - they offer fully remote study (as well as on campus) and I could do the learning and take part in group activities in the evenings, which was perfect for me as I needed to work full time alongside study to afford to live. With each module my knowledge grew, and I can honestly say that I loved the learning (apart from the statistics module, let’s not talk about that one). Although I was studying remotely, I never felt alone or that I didn’t have support. The lecturers were always on hand and we created a WhatsApp group for peer support.
My study with Arden began to benefit my career within my first year - I progressed within my role at the time to working mainly with primary aged children running nurture and well-being groups, notably understanding and living with anxiety. I then went on to work in refuges for women, men (we had separate male and female refuges), and their children, who had fled domestic abuse. This was a role in which I really got to put what I had learned into practice, especially my own research on ACE's, as I was supporting those who had suffered abuse in many forms (often not just from one partner, but previous partners and familial trauma, too) and who had made the brave decision to leave abusive homes. Once I had completed my masters, I got a job within the NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, where I work with children and young people who need an intensive level of support in order to avoid Tier 4 inpatient admission. This role is demanding but diverse - I support young people who are actively suicidal, at risk of accidental suicide, self-harm, eating disorders, the list goes on. Some days are utter chaos and there can unfortunately be several emergencies at any one time, but one thing Arden taught me was that I can do this.
My experience of studying with Arden didn't just teach me theory, I learnt how to apply theory to practice and how we use psychology in every-day life. I gained opportunities that I would struggle to get elsewhere - I was a voluntary research assistant on one of the lecturer's research study's and I got to present a talk at a careers event (which by the way, is excellent experience for applying for a doctorate!), and my most current achievement with Arden is being employed by them as a data ambassador, alongside my full-time job at CAMHS, which is a role only open to current students or alumni. The role of data ambassador is one I encourage you to go for, from the very beginning I have had wonderful support and though I only do 10 hours per week, outside normal office hours, I feel like a fully-fledged member of the Arden Library Services team. I especially recommend it for current students as you will learn so much more about how to use different resources and I can guarantee you will become an expert in referencing, which means full marks on bibliographies! I also love that I get a really good insight into other subjects/modules that I haven't studied personally, but are incredibly informative and have opened my eyes to other disciplines.
I know it sounds cheesy, but Arden prepared me for a successful future, academically, professionally, and personally and I can't wait to see what my future holds!Student Voice