When Thrive heard about Help Me, I’m Fine, a charity set up by Helen Cousin after tragically losing her teenage daughter, Maisie, to suicide in June 2017, it decided to nominate them as the Thrive charity of the year and fundraise for a sensory garden at Misterton Primary School.
The sensory garden is part of the charity’s aim to build the emotional resilience of primary school children in the Doncaster area. Helen, from Help Me, I’m Fine, believes that supporting the emotional health of children in primary school will give them the tools they may need as teenagers to cope with life’s ups and downs, ultimately reducing the likelihood of other teenagers taking their own lives. Being equipped with the skills to share and explore their emotional world with others by having practised this with trusted adults at primary school could make all the difference. After experiencing the benefits of talking about their feelings in early life, they will be more likely to ask for help when they are older.
Thrive has developed a specific way of working with all children that supports their social and emotional wellbeing. It draws on established neuroscience, attachment theory and child development, and has created a systematic approach to the early identification of emotional and social developmental needs in children. The Thrive Approach is based on an online profiling and action-planning tool, using the profile of individual children and whole classes to propose strategies and activities that can be incorporated within class activities or one-to-one and small group sessions. Training is provided to show staff how to be and what to do in response to children’s different, and sometimes challenging, behaviour.
To date, Help Me, I’m Fine has helped six primary schools in the Doncaster area adopt the Thrive Approach, and this year is fundraising for a sensory garden at Misterton Primary School, which Maisie attended and where Helen now works.
“When Maisie died it devastated not only us as a family but the whole community,” said Helen. “As a thank you for their support I wanted to create a sensory garden that could be used by the children and the wider community.”
Viv Trask-Hall, Principal Trainer for Thrive says: “In the Thrive Approach we recognise that being outside is inherently calming. I am delighted we are supporting the sensory garden at Misterton. It will provide essential opportunities for sensory exploration – smell, sight, touch and sound – and give the children the chance to put language to their sensations. It is so important to explore the outdoors, to experience being alongside others and be in a place where you can feel creative, still and calm. The sensory garden will help children to relax, have fun and develop a healthy sense of self.”
“At Misterton we are lucky enough to have a large area, including a pond, that we are transforming,” explains Helen. “A local business offered to do the groundwork for free which has been a huge help. The sensory garden will have a decking area and in the centre of this there will be a stunning spherical, sandstone water feature. I chose this because one of my last memories of Maisie was of her trailing her hand through the one at our local retail park.
“We are having raised beds made from railway sleepers which have been donated and will be filled with herbs and sensory plants – being supplied at cost by a local garden centre. We have lavender ready and plan to grow plants such as grasses and lamb’s ears that the children can touch. I have, in storage, a large wooden hare, a wind-chime, three wall dragonflies, fish on sticks to put by the pond area and metal butterflies. I will also be making search cards with ‘What can you see, hear, smell, taste, feel?’
“It will be an amazing space for children to be able to enjoy for years to come.”
How you can help?
To find out how you can support Help Me, I’m Fine visit their Facebook page at https://en-gb.facebook.com/itstimetotalksuicideawareness/