Hitchin schoolgirl tells launch of Stand-By-Me service: ‘Sessions helped me realise I wasn’t going through it alone’

The Stand-By-Me cake is cut to celebrate the handover of the services

The Stand-By-Me cake is cut to celebrate the handover of the services - Credit: Archant

A 17-year-old girl has spoken from the heart about how a bereavement group at school saved her from a downward spiral that may have led to exclusion.

The Priory school pupil Chloe Brown and assistant head Dan Nearney at the Stand-By-Me event

The Priory school pupil Chloe Brown and assistant head Dan Nearney at the Stand-By-Me event - Credit: Archant

Chloe Brown opened up about her experience coping with the loss of her mother as bereavement service Stand-By-Me was handed over from the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust to a board of trustees at a launch event in Letchworth last Thursday.

Priory School student Chloe whose mother died whe she was eight, said: “I was badly behaved, I was back chatting the teachers and I wasn’t doing my work.

“There were a few students who were going through the same thing and our behaviour was really bad.”

Pupils began running a bereavement group at the school in Bedford Road, Hitchin, last year and Chloe was among those who joined.

The Stand-By-Me handover event

The Stand-By-Me handover event - Credit: Archant

She recalled: “It was quite nerve wracking because I’d never spoken about things before.

“I listened at first. It gave me a safe place to grieve.

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“It helped me understand that I wasn’t going through it alone.”

After attending the group Chloe’s behaviour has improved and now she is studying for her A-levels and has ambitions to become a social worker.

Assistant headteacher Dan Nearney, who was also at the launch event, said: “Chloe’s behaviour is unrecognisable. She’s flourished.

“The bereavement service is about giving these children an opportunity to be themselves. It gives them a chance to take some time out.”

Trustee Sandra Blacker has defended the decision for a group of trustees to take over the running of the service from the NHS, which will see a series of free support groups and a telephone advice line for children like Chloe and family members run by volunteers.

She said: “Stand-By-Me shouldn’t be in the health service. It’s a community organisation and all the trustees are from the community.

“Bereaved children used to be referred to the mental health service. Going through a bereavement is a normal life event, it shouldn’t have the stigma of mental health.”

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