Four inspirational speakers gave New City College students some brutally honest and hard-hitting talks during a Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day – encouraging boys to open up about how they are feeling.
Held at Havering Sixth Form, the event was attended by Paul Connolly whose shocking childhood spent in the notorious St Leonard’s Children’s Home in Hornchurch, is played out in the recently released and popular Netflix film Big Boys Don’t Cry.
The film, part true story and part fiction, shows how Paul – along with many other young children – was terribly abused from the age of 8 and how his mental health as a young man was almost tragically affected. Three members of staff from the home were jailed for child abuse offences and the home shut down in 1984.
But Paul, who went on to marry and have two sons, told the students how, unlike many of his friends at the children’s home who sadly committed suicide or died of drug overdoses, he has managed to fight his demons and turn his life around. He gave them advice and encouraged more young men to talk about how they feel.
He is now a personal trainer and has worked with charities who support literacy for primary school children as well as being an expert witness for the police in child abuse cases. He was also Executive Producer on the Netflix movie about his life and has written two books, Big Boys Don’t Cry and Against All Odds about surviving his horrendous early years which began when he was dumped in a dustbin as a baby.
The students were moved by his story and inspired by his triumph over adversity.