Positive Steps


Over the first four months of the Covid pandemic in 2020, Joe Wicks became a national hero, as he livestreamed PE lessons online every morning to hundreds of thousands of Brits and internationally. Known for his upbeat manner and infectious energy, fitness expert Joe, also known as The Body Coach, provided an injection of positivity into the first lockdown.

TV fitness coach and lockdown phenomenon, Joe Wicks MBE, visited a school in Ealing recently to learn more about the work being done by a mental health charity. He met pupils from Woodlands Academy Primary participating in an outreach programme run by Our Time which supports children who have parents with a mental illness. The visit forms part of a documentary called Joe Wicks: Facing My Childhood, BBC One, 16 May and on BBC iPlayer, in which Joe talks about the impact of his own parents’ mental health difficulties.

"I never had this plan to do a documentary, but I realised my story could really help and inspire people suffering," says Joe, of his new programme Joe Wicks: Facing My Childhood.

Initially, he says, he had wanted to explore the link between exercise and mental health, as keeping fit has always been his chosen way of staying mentally healthy. During the process of making the programme, he realised the topic was more personal to him than he thought.

Speaking to Our Time’s Chief Executive and psychologist Dympna Cunnane, he seeks to understand the issues involved, and sets out to learn what help is available for other children growing up in similar circumstances.

Sharing his experience when he visited a One Time’s KidsTime workshop, with one of the charity’s trustees he explained: "I left feeling really uplifted. I was sad though, because this is just one charity, in the whole of the UK that's doing amazing work and there needs to be more. Their work was only reaching a certain number of families, but that kind of care everyone should have access to because there are millions of families with parental mental health. This kind of work is so powerful and so important that it really should be in every single borough in the country."

Joe reflects: “I'm really glad that I got to meet Our Time and the work they're doing, because it's really uplifting. I felt like it was a really positive step and an amazing initiative that if it gets rolled out and more people get access to it, it's going to save a lot of lives and it's going to transform a lot of children's lives as well - I just love the mission of that charity and think it's wonderful.”

A spokesperson for the Our Time commented: “Our Time is immensely proud to be part of this project, and we are very grateful to Joe Wicks, Mindhouse Productions and the BBC for the chance to be involved. It’s a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of the unique challenges faced by children living with poor parental mental health and also the importance of the work we do to support them. Through this, we show these young people they are not alone, and help them to understand what it is to struggle with mental ill health. With our support they can find resilience, confidence and community.”

According to Our Time, around one in three children have a parent with poor mental health, and they are three times more likely to face similar difficulties themselves. With the right help, the charity believes they can break this intergenerational cycle of mental ill-health. However, it says there is little targeted support available for these young people, and all too often they fall between the cracks of different services.


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