“Disruptive”, “non-compliant” and “angry” were the words often used to describe Jay Connor, 15, just over a year ago.
Her school attendance was below 80 per cent and when she did come in, she usually ended up being removed from most lessons. “When I wasn’t in school, I drank and partied,” says Jay.
These were symptoms of the torment she struggled with every day. “I hated looking at myself in the mirror,” she says. “I hated myself full stop. My dad committed suicide when I was younger, and my best pal told me how when I was eight years old.
“It made me sick to the stomach and it affected my mental health. I would get angry and totally flip out and then cry, but I didn’t know why. It affected every part of my life. I felt like I didn’t fit in, so I stopped trying.”
Jay was persuaded to take part in Achieve, a personal development programme run by the Prince’s Trust, which helps young people through practical, activity-based learning.
This was where she met Katie Mackay, whom she describes as “an amazing person with a massive heart”, adding: “I honestly feel so moved by the fact that one person could change my life for the better in six weeks.”
Jay remembers being “completely out of my comfort zone”, but says: “It helped me manage my feelings and talk about my past, and that felt really good. It made me confident about doing things independently, and it let me help others, which I really like doing.”
Within two weeks of starting Achieve, Jay was given the opportunity to go back to school for one last chance – and, for the first time, she enjoyed it. She had started to “believe in myself”, she explains.
Jay, who is in S4, now acts as an ambassador for other pupils, and speaks to them if they are struggling with something in their life.
She says: “I moved away from bad friendships, I went back to school and I’ve been accepted on an access course that will help me become a care worker, which is what I want to be.”