Inspiration in Education nominee – Adam Parkes
At his lowest point former Stoke-on-Trent headteacher Adam Parkes drove to Devon with the intention of ending his life by jumping from a cliff.
Now Adam, from Biddulph, supports school staff and pupils across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire with their social, emotional and mental health and uses his own story to inspire people around the world.
“I’ve been to the top of the cliff, quite literally,” he said. “I went through my first major suicidal episode in 2012.
“In 2018 I collapsed at work and they thought I might have had a heart attack. It was stress and anxiety because I was protecting the staff from the realities of some changes they were about to go through. I carried it to the point where my body gave up and physically collapsed.
“It’s a terrible happy accident that it led on to the work I’m doing now. I’m now doing something that would have been my dream.”
The 52-year-old is CEO of Parkes Education and also not-for-profit Taking Off The Mask. His blog about his own experiences reaches a global audience.
He was recently elected to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council on a mandate of young people, wellbeing and mental health.
Adam has been nominated in the Inspiration in Education category of the Your Heroes Awards by the mum of a teenager he’s currently supporting.
Emma Gilbert said: “My son Jayden is 13 and has been suffering with severe social, emotional and mental health difficulties over a couple of years. Jayden was referred to Parkes Education in October 2022 by the school to help with support in his daily school life.
“Since then my son has been having weekly appointments with Adam Parkes. Since the time Adam has been working with him my son is improving massively. There is still some more work to be done but a lot has changed.
“I think without Adam’s help my son wouldn’t be here today. The bond they have is like no other I have seen. Adam doesn’t just see Jayden, he sees loads of children at the school and in the area. It’s absolutely amazing support all around.
“Adam does so much for others. He’s a people person and believes mental health matters as he suffers with his own mental health while he’s helping others.
“Adam is my son’s hero. He’s everyone’s hero. He’s one in a million.”
Helping teaching staff and pupils with their social, emotional and mental health has become a life mission for Adam. He says he firmly believes that helping staff with their mental health is the route to helping the young people they teach.
“They listen to me because I’m someone who has been there. I spend my days working with some of the most amazing staff and young people and doing everything I can to try to make lives easier and improve teacher retention,” he said.