Dr. Jacqueline Campbell: Bridging the Gap

Claudia Crawley’s interview with Dr Jacqueline Campbell

Did you know that suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the UK?

When 10% of school children have a diagnosable mental illness, you’d be forgiven for believing that appropriate intervention would be obtainable at a sufficiently early age. However, 70% of children and young people experiencing mental health problems don’t get this. Shocking? Of course.

My Page 1 Woman is determined to turn this around. She’s Dr Jacqueline Campbell, (aka Jax), who was knocked off course when her younger brother took his own life. And setting up the Julian Campbell Foundation with a vision to enable children and young people to manage their mental health, is her way of ensuring that her brother didn’t die in vain.

‘They’re under-represented in terms of support provision. Statistics show that 50% of mental health conditions (e.g. bulimia, depression or anxiety), are experienced by age 14. And it takes 10 years on average before they get support. Many young people fall through the net. And then they become adults and for example, they lose a loved one and they’re sectioned. We want to prepare them to manage these events and their mental health’.

So who is Dr Jacqueline Campbell? She’s a tenacious, enthusiastic and driven former teacher with a dogged ambition to ensure that something good comes out of her brother’s tragic passing. The Foundation is not just a memorial to his name, it’s a provision that Jax wants to be a permanent fixture in schools countrywide; one that bridges an unwelcome gap.

Read on and find out more about the Julian Campbell Foundation and its founder.

Describe what you do?

Jax: I’m the founder of the Julian Campbell Foundation, a registered charity which empowers young people to manage their mental health. The organization is named to honour my brother, Julian, who committed suicide in 2007 due to mental health struggles.

At first I was paralyzed with grief. I began setting up the charity around 2010, when I was still in teaching. Then in 2011 M.E. forced me to examine what was really important and I chose to give up teaching and do the charity work, whilst caring for my mom. I’d had a 20 year career as a science teacher and then a consultant going into challenging schools to raise teaching and learning standards.

The foundation helps young people, aged 11 to 24, identify and change their mood, to avoid stress and anxiety. We help them increase their resilience and develop their emotional intelligence so they consider the impact of their behavior on others. We run drama workshops in schools, train teachers and mentor those who need specific support and guidance.

Julian was handsome, gifted, kind hearted, intelligent, talented and with so much potential and yet, this happened. We had some unique conversations. When he died I sought out the things that could have made a difference to his life. I looked back to when he was a teenager and in school. When I was involved in staff training, there was training about special needs and managing children with autism, or Asperger’s, but nothing about managing young people experiencing stress, anxiety, and depression.

At the moment we’re very small. We’ve a volunteer mentor, a director, a psychologist, and a PA. I manage the finances. Eventually I’ll appoint a finance manager. We’re aiming to raise £1 million this year. I’ve been doing speaking engagements, sponsored runs, and next year it’s the London Marathon.

What essential steps took you to where you are now?

Jax: Being passionate about mental wellness and giving up my career. But I’d stopped enjoying teaching. I never planned on being a head teacher because promotion takes you away from the kids and I loved teaching young people and being in their space. But I became more and more tired. And then one day I just couldn’t get up out of bed.

For the next eight or nine months I was in that same space, not knowing what to do. I’d go to an interview, get the job and I wouldn’t last the first day because I lacked energy. Something had to change.

In this organisation I could work my own hours, and do as much as I wanted. When I was really tired it took all day to write a text, but I didn’t give up. It was that desire to carry on regardless, make a difference in young people’s lives and get the wellness agenda out there.

Another essential step was when I was doing my brother’s eulogy; I decided to do something in his name. Three years later after the grieving I got the idea to combine my teaching experience and my knowledge of secondary schools with this vision. I have some awesome people involved who share my vision. It’s really humbling to see.

We get our young people through referrals and we go into schools. In September we’re working in a Greenwich school with year elevens and training the teachers. We’ve been doing different programmes in different schools but I want to run all our programmes in each school. Most schools in North and South London have expressed interest in our drama workshops.

What was the one most significant thing that got you into your current position?

Jax: I remember watching Steven Fry’s three-part documentary about bi-polar (which Julian had). At the end of part two he was speaking to the inspirational Dr. Liz Miller, a top neurosurgeon, about her experience of being diagnosed with bi-polar and sectioned. She’s written a book about it and is now one of our trustees. I’ve integrated parts of her book into the mentoring and the teacher training programmes.

I also wrote a book last year, ‘Runs in the Family’ about how I got here, the difficulties both my brother and I faced, the charity work, and how we support young people. It’s for young parents because I’ve seen the troubles that young people and their families have. Often we mentor the young person and their parents too as it moves things on more quickly. And then I saw that supporting parents earlier could prevent the difficulties their children experience. So, the book is to show young parents how to look at themselves, manage their own mental health and prepare for parenthood.

What was your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?

Jax: The greatest challenge has been to keep going. In teaching, I knew students would gain certain qualifications and I knew how things would go. But in a charity, it’s always uncertain.

I keep going because I want something good to come out of my brother’s death. And if all schools in our country have courses that help and support young people to manage their mental health, I’ll know my job is done. Sometimes I think ‘why am I doing this?’ Sometimes I have anxiety attacks. But something drives me. Maybe it’s my brother’s constant memory. Training for fund raising runs when I’m stressed, and feel negative makes me feel more positive.

What was your greatest lightbulb moment?

Jax: My greatest lightbulb moment was realising that if I can get more well-known people involved in the organisation, I can encourage more celebrities to do so too. We’ve a plan to get more celebrities’ endorsements. I got the idea when I was inspired by a flash mob on Britain’s Got Talent, who’re also world dance champions. I got them to perform at Kings Cross on World Mental Health Day, 10 October 2017. Then I contacted other celebrities and ‘Mind’. The response has varied. Many celebrities were interested, but not interested enough. I’ve also written to Prince Harry and I’ll be writing to Meghan. And we’re in touch with a couple of football players, and Microsoft too.

What resource has been crucial to your success?

Jax: The greatest resource was getting a PhD. I’ve two Masters too, in education, and in public health. My PhD in cognitive psychology and raising intelligence in young people enabled me to go into schools as a consultant. It boosted my confidence and helped me get promoted more rapidly into the leadership team.

Now, it’s helping me in my current role. I’m writing a research report from a public health perspective, using the same PhD research techniques and methodology.

What do you understand by leadership?

Jax: Leadership is being a visionary, having a goal, so you know where you’re taking everybody. You need to be able to manage that and take account of your followers’ needs. Leaders aren’t always appointed. You can lead by initiating action and influencing others.

As a woman leader, other people provide a mirror for me. I see aspects of me that work or don’t work through what’s going on around me. I’m not sure if that’s about being a woman. Maybe because I’m a woman I’m more compassionate.

My style is to involve everyone because it’s their organisation. Maybe men are more autocratic. As a woman I operate with integrity and I want to make a difference in young people’s lives. But that might be true for men too. Caring for youngsters and their families is probably what I bring specifically as a woman leader. I want them to have peace rather than suffer like my family.

What are your top three tips for women who want to be leaders in their field?

Jax: Have a vision and purpose. Once you know what you want and why, then the rest falls into place. When you know that you’re filling a gap and making a difference, you’ve got direction; you’re unstoppable, confident and driven. You’re forced to take action. And on those days where things are going badly that vision and purpose still drives you. Through losing my brother I discovered my Why. And knowing that I’m making a difference is satisfying.

Second, find your passion. When you find your purpose, you’ll find your passion. They’re intertwined. It comes through listening to yourself and finding what you really want and need. It brings you alive and gets you focused and driven. You’ll get what you want with velocity.

Third, believe in yourself. And when people come with their agenda and try and change things, you’ll stay firm about what you want. Self-belief provides strength and conviction that you’re doing the right thing. Otherwise you’re all over the place, going down other people’s routes. And maybe years later you realize you’re out there in the middle of nowhere.

You can purchase ‘Runs in the Family: Raising Emotionally Healthy Children and Overcoming Mental Health Difficulties’ on Amazon

To find out more about the Julian Campbell Foundation click here.