The need for Red Balloon: Rachel’s story

Rachel and her father have been working hard to enable a new Centre to open in Worthing to support vulnerable young people across West Sussex. The support that Red Balloon offers and the children who need us are a cause close to their hearts due to Rachel’s experiences at school, as her story explains.

My name is Rachel and I am 21 years old from Worthing, West Sussex.

I had always been happy at school – I loved learning and was quite academically able. However, this all changed when I hit senior school. My deteriorating mental health coupled with bullying and friendship difficulties developed into severe school anxiety.

School had been my safe place, but now it had become a living hell.

I would spend the school day seeking the nearest exits, planning my escape route, and willing home time to come around. I began purposely keeping myself awake at night as the less I slept, the slower the morning would arrive when I would have to go to school. It got to the point where the anxiety was too much. I would hide, cry, and plead with my parents not to make me go. I began to miss days of school, which soon became weeks and after the Easter holidays, I didn’t go back.

Despite my enthusiasm and drive for learning, the future of my education looked dire.

I was ready to give up as there seemed to be little else available. I was left isolated and completely withdrawn from social interaction. I had no school, no friends, and no hope for the future.

That was when a family friend introduced us to an Alternative Provision Centre (APC) for children who were unable to attend mainstream education, not because they had been excluded, had complex behavioural issues, or were not interested in learning, but because they suffered from a crippling phobia of school.

There I made friends, took my GCSEs and was able transition to a local mainstream college where I achieved 4 A-levels. Prior to Covid, I was at university where I felt as if I was finally making up for all those lost years when I should have been making friends and enjoying myself. Although I still struggle with my mental health, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t had been for the APC that I attended.

Sadly, that APC has since closed. That’s why my father and I are now working together with the charity Red Balloon to open a learner centre in Worthing for children who suffer severe anxiety, have been victims of bullying or experienced other trauma in their lives.

My hope is that I can enable children like me to access the same kind of provision that I was blessed with.

Red Balloon Worthing

Our newest Centre in West Sussex