12th January 2013

‘A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity. It dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in it’s path’ Agatha Christie. Jean is a mother, a mother of a son who took his own life. Paul 23, committed suicide in his family home, a painfully raw seven weeks ago. Jean speaks of her overwhelming grief, as she comes to terms with losing a son through suicide.

There is an intense feeling of presence within the house. Sitting in the kitchen, stroking the dog that was once Paul’s, a sense of overpowering grief fills the room, and the pain the family is experiencing is evident. It is extremely harrowing. Jean’s eyes are grey, they appear sunken and grieved; the eyes of a mother who has experienced emotional pain like no other.  Her loss is unmistakable and beneath the smile, and warmth in her manner, her agony is patent. Her eyes emit sheer sorrow.

As Jean spoke of her son, tears fell."Paul had everything going for him, and that is why my husband finds his death so difficult to comprehend. He was a fit healthy boy, fantastic university results, endless amounts of friends; I don’t know what went wrong. I wish I knew what was going on in his mind." The mind is perhaps, to some, a terrifying place. It is a tremendously powerful tool that controls our actions, which in turn controls our life. What lies beneath the minds of those suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts is to some, unfathomable. How do we get them out of that deep dark place they have been hauled in to?
The number of young people ending their lives is astonishing. Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that more than 3,000 male deaths in England and Wales in 2010 were suicides, and that nine out of ten people are not aware that suicide is the biggest killer of young men under the age of 35.  The number of young men committing suicide has increased over the past couple of decades, whereas death by suicide has fallen among women. The reason for this is still unknown.

There has been an ongoing myth that men are not big talkers. Some may agree, some may disagree but does this statistic correspond with the possible fact that women seem to openly talk about their feelings, whereas men will find it difficult to do so? In Paul’s case however this was not the reason.  "He would talk to me about anything" Jean explained. "Anything and everything. He told me when he was first feeling depressed, and he told me he was going to go to the doctors. He hid nothing from me. I made sure of it whilst the children were growing up that they could talk to me about anything. He was very good at talking, he would talk to us about things that you wouldn’t normally talk to your parents about."

Paul felt he needed counseling, and as Jean explained "they did say that he could have some help through a counselor, but it had to be an opt in system. They give you a phone number, and the patient has to book an appointment. It’s left far too much on them, if you are a vulnerable person and you are not feeling good about yourself you do not need any hurdles getting in your way, and in my opinion this was a huge hurdle" Was Jean right? Are those suffering with depression not receiving the correct professional help?

"He was famous for his smile. Everyone remembers him for his smile. To know he was unhappy underneath however, is really difficult to comprehend. Knowing your son was that unhappy is a feeling I simply cannot put into words". According to the online English dictionary happiness is defined as the feeling of great contentment or pleasure. Yet where is it that we find our happiness, and how do we define whether someone is happy? Reading through the speech read out at Paul’s funeral it is difficult to come to terms with his depression, and according to Jean "To anyone that knew him, they had absolutely no idea that this was in his head. The speech is a timeline of Paul’s life, his short 23 years, that highlights Paul’s most memorable moments. From his favourite toy as a child and love for his grandmas cooking, to his fantastic trips around the world, it seemed as though Paul was blessed with the love of such a caring and doting family.

"Paul was a very charismatic individual. He really had the gift of the gab and was never short of female attention, whether in turn that was a good thing or not, I am unsure. He was blessed with the body of an athlete, blue eyes, blonde hair and a huge friendly smile". Jean held securely onto a photo of Paul as she recalled her son’s characteristics. Paul’s depression and feelings of serious despair were worsened through heartbreak, brought about when he fell deeply in love with a girl called Rosie. His split with Rosie and the way in which he dealt with it, questioned his ability to cope with life’s downfalls. Jean continued to speak of Paul’s difficulty with a relationship, which may have pushed him over the edge. "He found it very hard when his relationship with Rosie ended. It’s only looking back now that we realise he obviously felt it even more than we thought. He found heartbreak very challenging. Relationships were testing for him, when they were working everything was fantastic, but when there were any problems however small, they really sent him low." His split from Rosie left Paul devastated. Rosie, as Jean explained was ‘the love of Paul’s life’ and Paul had told his mother many times that Rosie was ‘the one’. He found it remarkably difficult to move on from Rosie. Jean admitted "I didn’t know at the time, but he went to the doctors after the split to tell the GP he was feeling suicidal. He was then told he would be assessed the next morning"

A morning too late.

A quote lifted from the letter Paul sent to his parents, found unexpectedly on his laptop, days after his death reads "I feel that I have made you proud of me and that the years we have had together have been some of the best that people will ever experience in life, I love the fact that you mum can get over any obstacle, and you do not give in whatsoever. Make sure you tackle this obstacle for me." Gripping the letter like it was Paul himself Jean spoke "I know that he wanted help but he didn’t get it". Through agonizing, anger ridden tears Jean felt that Paul ‘didn’t get the professional help’ that he needed.

"It has taken my husband and I weeks to unpick all the information about Paul; we have only recently found the letters on his laptop. My only way of grieving is to talk about him, to tell everyone what a wonderful boy he was and how deeply I miss him." A son who ended his life through sheer unhappiness and inability to cope with life’s difficulties, Jean bravely manages to appreciate the time spent with Paul. "We were all so lucky to have shared those 23 years which he packed so much into. We really were blessed".

26th June 2012

‘A man of courage never wants weapons’

Will we ever know how brave we are until faced with our darkest anxieties? Will we ever be able to truly conquer our fears unless wholly presented with them? I think it is safe to say that our bravery will shine and possibly surprise us when we are faced with our weaknesses head on.
Ben Mcguee is 10 years old and is living with cancer. Ben Mcguee is the bravest person I know.
Please do not be misled into thinking this is just another miserable despondent article about the saddening outcome of cancer, nor is it to be passed off as a depressing and numbingly repetitive write up of the killer disease. I am writing this purely to deliver the sheer bravery and wonderful innocence a child can bring to one of life’s greatest downfalls.
I spent an afternoon with Ben and his mother, desperate to find out how a ten year old can cope with the most frightening of diseases. 
I had a list of questions I wanted to ask Ben but I worried how I would ask them, would I upset him? Would I say the wrong thing? Does he even know the reality of his illness? However I cannot express the utterly astounding aura of this boy. His personality; so charming and so confident my uncertainty and hesitations disappeared from the get-go. Ben’s buoyancy was truly thrilling and inspiring. He has the warmest of hearts and reassured me with the greatest of maturity that he was more than happy to talk about his illness. And with that, we delved into a conversation about the diagnosis, and the story of his treatment. Speaking of chemotherapy with such ease and simplicity I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing. Conversing with such a black and white approach of his traumatic treatment I wondered if this boy was human. He spoke with such innocence yet maturity. I couldn’t believe how open he was and it made me question whether the sheer innocence of a child counteracts the terrifying illness. Would an adult in the same situation be as unguarded? Ben continued to confidently show me the tubes wrapped around his stomach and neck, where his treatment was inserted. Ben showed no hesitation in showing me each step of his treatment, which included being in the room with him as he had his weekly check up with the Macmillan nurse. I found myself in awe of the medication and the procedures and routines Ben faces everyday. When the subject of Chemotherapy developed, Ben’s response was extraordinary, "One of the magic things about my Chemo was that I didn’t lose my hair. I mean I actually wanted to lose it and look like Matt Lucas, so every morning I would wake up and check my pillow for hair, but I never saw a single thing!".

As Ben shows me how he spends his evenings, in a whirlwind of computer games and maltesers, I forget the reason I am there. In the bubble I find myself in, the disease is not in the room with us, infact it doesn’t even exist. At that moment in time, there was no such thing as cancer, and the only thing fighting against Ben were the bombs being thrown at his character on the computer screen.

Statistics show that survival has increased for all childhood cancers since the late 1960’s. For every 10 diagnosed with cancer, almost 8 now survive for 5 years or more. Maybe one day our hopes that cancer will be treated with just a pill will come true, but for now let's recognize the positive improvements the treatments are providing. Ben Mcguee proves cancer is not undefeatable. He is. 

10th December 11

The Naked Truth

Ella Farrelly, an intellectual nineteen year old student born and raised in Oxford has moved to Liverpool to become a nurse. This may sound innocent enough and from the outside Ella appears attractive, well spoken and very intelligent. Little does everyone know however, that when night falls Ella is in fact, a stripper. Lowri Williams investigates...
‘I had reservations’ Ella admits. ‘On the trial shift and audition I didn’t know what to expect, it was probably one of the worst things I’ve ever done. But its money isn’t it?’ The words spoken from the voice of a well cultured girl, who once studied in school alongside Harry Potter star Emma Watson. Who would have thought the sweet and bright well-to-do girl from Oxford now bares all on stage, and thrusts her breasts in front of rows of dribbling men. What would her family say if they knew she is now stripping her way through University? The truth is, she is just one of many students peeling off their dignity one piece of clothing at a time, in order to fund their university courses.
The naked truth is revealed, in that stripping to fund university courses has become an extremely common tendency over the past couple of years. According to a nationwide survey taken just over a year ago by, forty percent of female students would be willing to pose topless in order to finance their courses, and staggeringly more than a third of them would consider working in a gentlemen’s club. These statistics prove that clearly money has taken precedence over dignity. Gone are the days where it was scandalous and outrageous for a woman to even show an inch of ankle, look where women are now, waltzing around naked in front of men, flashing their assets for money and literally selling their bodies. As Ella begins to open up, she starts to disclose the truth behind the dingy atmosphere that is of a strip club ‘Last Friday a man spat on one of the girls’ bum, she wiped it off and slapped him across the face. Nothing bad has happened to me yet.’ Her voice carries angst as she unfolds the tales of the club.
The obvious question arises... why are educated girls turning to stripping? Or is it that we have all become too naive to realise that in fact being a student by day, and stripper by night is extremely common and acceptable nowadays? To put it bluntly, times have clearly changed and possibly our old fashioned views, and pretentiousness needs to move on too. After all we are in the 21st century, what’s showing a little flesh for a couple of hundred quid? The survey taken by which is a site that matches students to jobs, also posed the question to students ‘To help fund your degree would you ever consider working as a glamour model?’ 41% of students replied yes, 47% replied maybe and only a mere 12% replied no. It is these answers in an anonymous survey that really highlight the minds of students and the lengths they will go to, simply to make money. With a staggering 72% willing to pose in their underwear for extra money whilst at University, it proves that students will sell their bodies for money without hesitation. Ella explains ‘It’s ten pounds a dance and we tie the money in elastic bands around our ankles’
First impressions of Ella, and the word stripper certainly does not spring to mind. She has a tiny frame, a very petite girl with pretty childlike features. Her chest is small, nothing like the average strippers inhumanely large, hard silicone breasts that you would expect her to own. This is worrying, and somehow it would be more acceptable if she did look like the stereotypical stripper. Is Ella’s childlike body what men pay to marvel at? Surely not... ‘The men range anything from eighteen to eighty years old’ Emma winces as she hears what she has just said ‘Some men are really disgusting and some are really nice. It just depends; you get every sort of man in there.’
University prices have now soared to nine thousand pounds a year, surely this is going to be the perfect ultimatum for students to earn easy money. Is the increase in price going to push students to do even more than just strip? Will it drive them to work unethically and undignified, simply to pay their way through university? Ella works alongside other students of the area, ‘There are two or three other girls that are also students, some have already done their degree and some have kids’ So not only is it that the students are stripping to pay their way through university, those who have actually earned their degree are back to earn money as a living. Is this not a terrible waste of an education?
The survey also found that one in four female students might consider working as an escort to fund their studies, while four percent said they ‘definitely would’. It is slightly worrying to think our future nurses and lawyers may have paid for their degree under the sheets. Yes, we all say we don’t judge, but really, would you put your case in the hands of a prostitute turned lawyer? The fact of the matter is, these choices that students make while young and in debt could seriously affect their careers later in life. Working as a stripper or escort at a young age could quite easily come back to haunt them, possibly damaging future successes. In the blur for a fight for money however, people go to extraordinary lengths, causing them to make rash decisions, dancing naked being one of them. Morals and dignity are lost as soon as easy opportunities to make money arise, and sure it sounds easy enough, but where has all the self respect gone? It clearly disappears along with the G-string.
Ella explains that evidently the money is the driving force for this particular kind of work ‘Normally I work three nights a week, weeknights can be anything up to £150, Fridays £200 and Saturdays £300’ As you start to work out how much Ella makes a week, it becomes very clear to see why students like herself, work at these places. Ella is aware that being a stripper comes with its judgement. ‘A lot of people look down upon it yes, but once they hear how much you can make from it, I think it sways them’ And it is precisely this that entices students to work at strip clubs; the money. Even though Ella appears relaxed and content with her way of work, the fact her part time job is a secret screams shame in every form ‘I don’t tell anyone, obviously my close friends know, but I would never tell anyone that I have just met, my family don’t even know’ Without admitting it, Ella clearly see’s her work as an embarrassment and obviously not something her family would be proud of. And it is the secrecy that challenges the morality of the work. ‘You get used to it; I guess it’s like a routine. You don’t really think about what you’re doing when you’re up there.’ This movement without thought proves stripping as a part time job does not carry a lot of reflection or hard work, only secrecy and unwanted baggage. Strip clubs inevitably portray a begrimed and dirty atmosphere and Ella’s description of her manager and work ethic only enhances the stereotyped place of work; ‘The manager Paul gets really drunk, he always puts his hands all over the girls, he’s a bit dirty and old’ and when it comes to baring all Ella continues, ‘You take your knickers off to just above the knee, we ask for the lights to be turned down as low as possible, but our boss always turns them up’ And from this, it seems strip clubs have not changed since they first began, nor the people, owners or customers, in that the atmosphere and job title is as dirty as the money is.
 Laura Johnson, head of the Student Union at Salford University in Manchester, feels the economic crisis we are facing as a nation at this current moment in time is pushing students to do more than just the average day job. ‘I think it is due to all the cuts that have been made in higher education now, along with the difficulties of actually getting a part time job.’ Youth unemployment has just reached the one million mark, proving that we are in employment crisis and young people are now going to search elsewhere for easier ways to make money. Easy money. Yet nine out of ten times however, this easy money does not come modestly. Students and young people have certainly felt the full force of Britain’s economic meltdown and are currently experiencing the impact it has had. Figures show that there were 1.02 million unemployed 16-24 year olds between July and September, and that one in five young people are now out of work. The figures speak for themselves in that no wonder students are turning to strip clubs to earn money. Yet can we just hold Britain’s economic crisis responsible? Delving deeper into the lives of the strippers, it is clear that there is definitely more to it...
It is not wrong to say that most girls thrive for perfection and most want to look and feel beautiful and have confidence within themselves. Self confidence is key when it comes to working in a strip club and many women work there simply to boost their confidence, and to feel a sense of power and lust. Some may say they are vulnerable dancing naked in front of crowds of drooling men, however others say that these women hold power and control. With sustained eye contact and a short preview of what is underneath their barely there underwear, women can have men throwing money at them, and in all fairness this is powerful. Their moves and bodies can leave men practically gagging for another lap dance or yearning for another thrust up and down the pole as they gaze on in awe. Pole dancing has become very popular over the past couple of years, and on every website offering classes, those two words that mean so much to people are jumping out at them on the screen: self confidence. It is an issue many women suffer with and not a lot of people can say they are 100% confident with how they look and feel. Perhaps this is why students are taking to the poles? Maybe money is just a minor throwback for them and to feel wanted and desired is what they long for. Laura Johnson agrees ‘Girls just want to feel attractive. And this is one way of feeling it. I don’t think they feel it is shameful or wrong, to them it is an ordinary job which just so happens to make them feel sexy.’
 Joanna Ward, the founder of, expressed her opinion on the situation ‘In the current economic climate it is vital students get work experience from safe student services such as, that will guide them to safe and honest future careers.’ She highlights an aspect that is hardly touched upon when it comes to working in a strip club, and that is of the girls’ safety. ‘The safety of students is paramount and we would never condone anything that puts students at risk such as stripping. In my opinion it is dangerous and immodest.’
For current students, working in a strip club has become such a secretive phenomenon recently it makes you wonder how our future students will be paying off their university fees. Will prostitution and stripping ever be condoned? Will it ever be seen as a modest way of earning money? Excuse the pun but strip your mind from fears of judgement and answer honestly, would you bare all for a large wad of cash? Your answer may surprise yourself.

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Fashion and Business Journalist