Alumni: Daniel’s story

Life before Red Balloon

“I had an awful time at my first senior school; I was bullied horrendously. I arrived late in the year and I was the outsider and found it hard to make friends. It just went from bad to worse really, the teachers were not supportive and it rapidly reached the point where I didn’t have any friends at all at school and I was miserable.

“When I left my first senior school I was pretty torn up. I was ill with post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and anxiety. So that wreaked havoc in my mind and in my brain. I just couldn’t cope with the full-on social stuff and the workload. So I had to leave my second school too, after which I spent about a year in a psychiatric hospital. I’d had to take a lot of time out at that point and I was feeling hopeless. I wondered “what the hell is going to happen to my education? Am I going to have to be home-schooled? What’s going to happen with University?”

“It was at that point that I came to Red Balloon. I was about 15 and had been out of education for a year. My medication had been adjusted so that I was just about in a good enough state to manage out of the hospital and sort of function. But I wasn’t well enough to go to mainstream education, and that’s what was going on for me when I joined Red Balloon.

Supportive and relaxed

“Things at Red Balloon were different to my previous schools; it was quieter, more relaxed, and it felt more comfortable. The teachers were very supportive, and there was a big sense of them wanting me to do well. They were kind, encouraging, motivating, treated me as an equal and as someone to be respected, which was a big important thing to me.

I think my biggest achievement while at Red Balloon, corny and obvious though it may sound, was actually getting GCSEs; because I didn’t think that would be possible when I joined. But I got my A and my A-stars so I was happy with that. Just getting through was the biggest achievement I could have hoped for. I am now studying Pharmacology at University, as well as setting up my own pharmacology business.

Life without Red Balloon

“If I hadn’t gone to Red Balloon, honestly I’d probably be back in the psychiatric hospital. For one thing I definitely wouldn’t have managed in mainstream education. Red Balloon absolutely prepared me for the future. It taught me a lot about managing social interactions as well as treating others as equal. Being on equal terms with teachers with first names, I think that was definitely one of the things that enabled me to form my network of pharmacology contacts, which is what got me where I am today.”