My amazing son Harris deserves his place on the Murrayfield pitch with the Scotland team – Hayley Matthews
My eldest has had a really rough time of it recently. If you're the parent of a neurodivergent child, you'll understand the daily struggles.
It's been a learning curve for us this past year as we try to understand the way he sees the world and await a full diagnosis. I can't imagine how difficult it is for him, although I'm kind of clued up having started my own therapy journey at 16.
With more hospital appointments than you can shake a stick at, I feel my son is only just starting to make progress on the road back to the happy child he was before serious mental health problems struck. He's happy for me writing about this, in fact, he's fully aware of the stigma around mental health and how not speaking about it actually feeds the stigma. He's only one of many children suffering at the moment and to say we’re proud of him is an understatement.
We'd reached a point last winter when he refused to go to school, stopped eating and drinking, and became quite unwell. Going out was incredibly stressful and whilst his dad and I were trying desperately to cling on to the little boy who once darted about carefree, we were now faced with a child who was terrified of death, had sunken into a deep depression of constant worry and was unrecognisable. He's lucky to have had the indestructible support from his school teachers, headmistress, Granny and Papa, auntie Kate, close friends, peers at The Ripple, The Yard, and most of all Leith Hawks Rugby.
Having a rugby family with adults who are easy to speak to and approachable has been a rock for my son. There was a time when he refused to go but, with his dad coaching and support from Ross, Alex, Russell, Dereck, Jim and all the team, he's now at the point where he feels well enough to take on the honour of being a mascot at the Scotland-Australia match next weekend.
We've still had to put a plan in place for him, make adjustments and go over everything with a fine tooth comb, however, he's excited about it and it's an emotion I haven't seen him express for a while.
We'll be on hand with ear plugs, reassurance and cuddles, but he's got this. He's surrounded by an incredible group of strong men from Leith Rugby, amazing role models who have his back, as well as his dad and uncle Graham.
I do realise not everyone reading this will have a deep understanding of child mental health. Some may laugh, but shame on those that wouldn't put everything into the well-being of a child. We're lucky because never once has anyone we've shared our son’s struggles with brushed them off or told him to "man up". I put this down to the fact that we surround ourselves with understanding, nurturing and patient people.
If you'd told us a year ago that our son would be walking out onto the Murrayfield pitch beside his favourite rugby players, signing the national anthem with them ahead of their game and sitting with us in the front row, I'd have given you a serious look.
Well done Harris, you're an amazingly brave child who we can all take inspiration from.