Dr Laura N Young MBE is a remarkable woman whose own story provided the inspiration she needed to make a difference to parents and families across the UK.
Dr Young and her husband John co-founded the Teapot Trust in 2010 after seeing the gaps in the care of their daughter Verity, who suffered from Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE Lupus) and also cancer before her tragic death at the age of eight, in 2009.
Today, the Teapot Trust is Scotland’s largest employer of clinically trained art therapists, with 17 art therapists running 22 projects in 11 towns and cities, from Inverness to the Borders. It has also expanded into England, with two projects running for children at hospitals in London.
“Children with chronic illnesses often have to visit hospital very regularly over a long period of time, and in many cases grow to find the experience painful or traumatic,” says Dr Young.
“I vividly remember watching a mother struggling with a kicking and screaming child, trying to carry them into the hospital and every time she put them down they ran back out of the doors. Embarrassed, apologetically the mother said ‘she is just totally fed up with coming here’ and I thought, I am not the only one manhandling my child into the car, who then kicks and screams for the whole journey… we have to do something to help.”
According to Dr Young, art therapy gives a welcome distraction to children attending hospitals and gives them a way to express their feelings to someone who is not only kind and friendly but highly trained as a therapist.
“For the parents, it makes life a lot easier as it makes hospital visits much more bearable, with children having something to look forward to – something positive to associate with going to see the doctor,” she adds.
Dr Young’s pioneering work in setting up, running and rapidly growing the Teapot Trust has been recognised by a wide range of people and bodies. In 2014 Laura was named Tesco Charitable Mum of the Year, and in 2015 Prime Minister David Cameron named her and husband John Points of Light, an award reserved for those who contribute greatly to society.
Later that year, she received an honorary doctorate from Queen Margaret University, and in 2016 Laura was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List in recognition of her services to chronically ill children in Scotland.
Most recently, in February 2017, Laura was named Scotswoman of the Year by the Glasgow Evening Times, and dedicated that award to the work of art therapists and female friends.
For Evening Times editor, Graham Shields, Dr Young stood out as an example of courage in the face of adversity. “Despite devastating personal grief, she never lost sight of what she wanted to do – to create a service she knew would help countless families during the darkest of times,” he said.
“Nothing can prepare parents for what lies ahead when their child is diagnosed with a serious illness. It takes an exceptional person to understand what needs to be done to help those parents, and, despite coping with her own overwhelming loss, to have the vision, the compassion and the tenacity to do it. Laura is nothing short of remarkable.”