Despite several suicide attempts, Sue* had to try time and time again to get her son Ryan* the support he needed from mental health services.
“Ryan’s story really starts in primary school. Being of short stature, he was seen as an easy target and bullied early on in life. I hoped high school would be different and encouraged him to attend a school outwith the catchment area, but he was scared of change and preferred to accept the devil he knew.
“From day one of high school, he never really made any good friends. The bullying continued, and by third year, things had spiralled out of control. The bullies were relentless, and despite several meetings with the school, it was ongoing, and at times, physical.
“Ryan first attempted suicide when he was in second year. I took him straight to A&E for assessment, where he was referred to CAMHS, and then to a counsellor. However he hated going and wouldn’t talk about his feelings, instead giving the impression he was ok.
“Ryan was becoming increasingly withdrawn and quiet. He wasn’t eating well; and despite being extremely clever throughout primary school, his grades were now falling off the scale.
“It wasn’t long before he told me he had been contemplating suicide again. We went back to A&E, and were again referred to CAMHS. This time we met with a group of professionals to discuss his history and suicidal behaviour. I felt like we’d been kicked in the stomach when a letter followed the meeting saying that his case had been closed.
“As parents, we like to think we know and understand just how bad things had become for our own child and when the situation has spiralled out of control and needs outside help. Ryan’s low mood had been an ongoing issue since before his suicide attempt two years previously, and he’d never recovered from it. But he would have told them anything they wanted to hear, if it would lead to him being left alone.
“However CAMHS failed to see through this smoke screen and their answer was self-help websites for Ryan to look at – which he refused to do because he saw that as more studying. They also wanted us to attend family mediation, which Ryan also refused to do. I asked about anti-depressants but was told they wouldn’t work because Ryan ‘wasn’t depressed.’
“I wrote to CAMHS and asked them to re-evaluate Ryan’s case; and luckily they agreed and re-entered him into the system.
“At this point it became apparent that he was self-harming. Unfortunately he was very good at hiding just how unwell he was.
“Then I heard something a parent should never have to hear: the police contacted us to say that Ryan was in hospital following a particularly serious suicide attempt. How much pain must he have been in, how desperate? He was in Critical Care, required several skin grafts, and is scarred for life on his arms, legs, and torso – he’s extremely lucky his face escaped injury.
“He was in so much pain, and feeling so low. He was put on anti-psychotic medication and his anti-depressants increased to a much higher dose.
“I then had to persuade Ryan to self-admit to the hospital for psychiatric care. Can you imagine the wedge that drove between us? He had to go – he was still a suicide risk – but he didn’t want to go, and hated me for ‘making him.’
“Since then, the psychiatric investigations have led to a diagnosis of autism. Ryan is doing better, but his confidence is still low and there’s a long way still to go.
“I’m still so angry about the rejected referral from CAMHS, and that they couldn’t read between the lines to see that Ryan needed help. Ryan was bending the truth to avoid further meetings, and as much as I tried to speak up, I didn’t feel like I was being heard because Ryan was over 16. I also felt the finger was just pointed at me, accusing me of being a bad parent. I cried and cried at that.
“It felt like CAMHS ignored extremely important points and focused on trivial things. If this had been caught earlier, would it have gotten so bad?”
*Not real names