The future of the left since 1884

People not problems: Louise

Centre for Social Justice researchers met Louise through 1NE, a charity based in London.



Three decades ago, Louise was at school. An unusually tall, slight and rather timid teenager, she was bullied relentlessly. But away from school, her family life appeared to be everything one would hope for: “My dad always worked and the family would take holidays in the summer. There was no abuse at home,” Louise said.

However, her mother suffered from depression and Louise felt only she could provide the emotional support her mother desperately needed. For this reason, she felt unable to talk about what was happening to her at school. The stress built up. Louise developed alopecia and started to self-harm.

By Louise’s twenties, things appeared to be easier. She worked in the City, with the boozy culture of after-work socials going unquestioned. However, work and socials prevented Louise from noticing the warning signs that something was wrong, eventually leading to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and clinical depression. She said, ‘the work keeps you pre-occupied … I didn’t notice’.

Louise quickly descended into a darker period of her life. Her marriage was unhappy with routinely hostile encounters. Her drinking escalated. Her mental health declined. Eventually, unable to cope and in deep desperation, she stabbed herself in her leg, severing an artery. Losing custody of her children. Louise lost her desire to cope and drinking became her terrible refuge. She explained: “I hated what I had done and I hated the drink.” But she added: “I drank to black out the hurt I felt about being drunk all the time.”

Louise’s parents encouraged her to seek help and she went to rehabilitation. She left treatment after months of sobriety but, with little in the way of after care, she was drunk within two weeks. High strength cider costing as little as £2.50 and cheap wine blurred out the months that followed. Looking back, Louise said she was “dead. I was just a body. I can’t believe I was that person now”.

Ready to give up completely, Louise’s local council offered to pay for her detox on one condition: that she attend 1NE for two weeks, a treatment centre in London. She agreed. It changed her life.

For the first six weeks Louise said little, she understood little. Eventually, she began to engage and the community helped her live life both in and out of the treatment centre.

Today, more than five years after her last drink and first day at 1NE, Louise is sober and ambitious about her future. She has her kids back and she is helping children to understand the need to talk about their mental health and to disclose bullying.

Louise’s story is part of a Fabian Society/Centre for Social Justice report on severe and multiple disadvantage. Read People not Problems here.

Read William’s story here.

Read Keith’s story here.

Read Lucy’s story here.

Read Rebecca’s story here.

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