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Mental health: Ruby, 12, talks about dad’s sudden death

A 12-year-old girl was left “shattered” after her dad died suddenly the night before he planned to book a family holiday.

The devastating blow came just months after Ruby, from Merthyr Tydfil, had lost her great-grandmother to dementia.

At the time, in 2018, she felt unable to talk about it or even cry, with people saying “be brave for mam”.

After suffering anxiety, Ruby is slowly regaining confidence and wants everyone to be open about their feelings.

“It was one of the most horrible feelings,” she said, looking back.

“It has been a real struggle losing them and my mental health has been impacted, but it is getting slowly better. The morning he died came as a real shock and I miss him lots.

“Everyone would say ‘be brave for mam’. I felt I had to be fine. There were no tears or anything. I had to keep myself away if I had to deal with emotion.”


It was five years ago, when Ruby was seven that her great-grandmother died from vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Then, in December of 2018, her dad Jamie, who was 38, had been talking about a family holiday before he went to bed.

But he never woke up – dying suddenly and unexpectedly from a blood clot.

Remembering him fondly, Ruby says: “Dad was a nutter, to be fair. He was just full of laughter.”

While she is able to talk openly about her father now, when she transitioned from primary to high school, her teachers noticed she was quiet and lacking in confidence.

Looking back, Ruby says she was experiencing feelings of anxiety about a lot of things, and not sharing these only made her situation worse.

“It was definitely one of the most challenging things I’ve ever experienced… I didn’t talk when I was at my lowest,” she added.

It was at this point her teacher signed her up to the Youth Sport Trust’s active in mind programme.

‘Confident and bubbly’

Through a series of games and activities, Ruby was encouraged to discuss her mental health, as well as considering good habits to nurture a healthy mind.

She was one of 21,216 young people that were part of the six-week programme in Wales and England.

In groups of 15, they were led by an athlete mentor and five mental health champions.

“We had our world turned upside down and shattered,” Ruby’s mother Adele admitted.

She believes her daughter has “changed so much” as a result of the sessions and is now that “confident and bubbly” pupil in the classroom again.

“Her dad would be so proud of her,” Adele added.

“They helped me think about losing my Dad and Gi (great-grandmother),” Ruby said.

“It made things better because it made me laugh a lot more and helped me to be more active through the games and understand how to keep my body and mind healthy.”

Now Ruby is on a mission to encourage her friends to open up, adding: “I don’t think there is enough support for young people in society today when it comes to mental health, and I think our generation can be easily overlooked.

“Young people should never be afraid to share their emotions and how they are feeling.

“Don’t be afraid to cry. I’m not here to judge you for crying.”

Youth Sport Trust chief executive Ali Oliver added: “In the shadow of the pandemic, we are taking urgent action to help the many young people who are struggling with their mental health, and to support schools with practical advice and help.

“A cost of living emergency is increasing inequality across society and these worries are having an impact on young people too.”

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