Psychologist Peter Fonagy tells of his own struggles in early life as the Anna Freud charity that he heads opens a major new centre for traumatised children

In 1967, a young Hungarian refugee sent to live in Britain planned on ending his life. “At 16 I was a very depressed adolescent, I had suicidal ideation, I had suicidal plans,” Peter Fonagy recalls. “If I was assessing myself now I would be very worried about me, because I knew exactly how I was going to do it. The reason is not that subtle or surprising: I was a Hungarian boy, who had landed in England and was not able to speak English.”

Lodging with a family in Kew Gardens, west London, the young Fonagy did not want to eat, or leave his room. He hated talking to people and was struggling academically. “I was massively inhibited. I was at a secondary modern school with kids who failed the 11-plus whose main interest was football.”

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