A teenager’s challenging journey

06 May 2020

In just five episodes, this coming of age story illustrates the difficulties in family life from the perspective of a teenager living with an alcoholic father and a mother with bipolar disorder. From a psychological perspective, it highlights the multiple influential relationships which can impact a child’s development. For anybody who’s experienced mental health difficulties, either individually or as a carer, this series will resonate with the difficulties that can present from various different angles. I personally recommend this series to anybody working with young people, as it depicts that rebellious behaviour is not always simply a typical teenager trait. 

The teenager, Bethan (Gabrielle Creevy), adopts the role of carer as she is seen playing truant to secretly visit her mother (Jo Hartley) during her inpatient stays. Her father (Rhodri Meilir), who struggles with alcoholism, clearly disagrees with the decision to reach out to the inpatient team, thus causing a strain on their relationship. Bethan’s school life also presents the issues of the homophobia, bullying, puberty and income-disparity affecting popularity. This only increases our empathy towards Bethan as we wonder which of these adversities will impact her the most. 

Thankfully, Bethan’s grandmother (Di Botcher) provides relief, as she allows Bethan to discuss her parent’s differing mental health situations. For a young person in this situation, being able to discuss it helps reduce the risk of developing a similar mental illness, by developing a greater understanding and reducing self-blame. As we uncomfortably watch Bethan’s teacher’s attempting to understand her out-of-character behaviour, we are left questioning why Bethan’s school is unaware of her challenging family life. This reflects real life situations, as parents do not have to disclose mental health difficulties to a child’s school

This series illustrates the benefits of an inpatient unit within range to families. It soon becomes clear from Bethan’s mother’s sectioning that inpatient service users can present with severe high risk. Such presentations distress their family who may be called upon for emergency visits, as happens in the series. If you’re unfamiliar with inpatient care, the Royal College of Psychiatrists emphasises that out of area inpatient units can be detrimental to a patient’s recovery. This series outlines the importance of providing accessible inpatient care, as well as considering the emotional strain which can be placed onto children.

As you follow Bethan’s personal journey, you can’t help but wonder if her resilience will eventually wear. The cliff-hanger ending leaves viewers questioning the stability of Bethan’s social circle, as her coping mechanisms towards her mother’s mental illness are challenged. The series allows you to draw your own conclusion on how Bethan will cope, whilst also introducing the wider discussion of the influence that teachers, friends and carers have on a child’s development.

Reviewed by Georgia Harvey, who studies Child and Adolescent Mental Health at King’s College London

In My Skin is available on iPlayer.