My mother died suddenly after a short illness. As I am a single mum and work full time, my mum was especially important in my daughter’s life. Mum was adored, admired and was the ‘go to’ person when things got rough.
The months that followed Mum’s death were a blur of disbelief, and in amongst all this my child was suffering and I just did not see it. It turned out she didn’t want to burden me with her grief as I was struggling, but she had no one else to go to: the one person she trusted was gone.
Her suffering was picked up by someone outside the family: this left me distraught as I hadn’t noticed the clear signs she wasn’t coping. We looked for help through the school and doctor, but a combination of rural lack of services and mental health staff on long term sick leave meant we had nowhere to go. The GP did refer us to CAMHS but this was rejected because there was no immediate risk of suicide.
Several of my family members have experienced mental health problems, but no-one ever asked us about our family history. We were incredibly lucky other agencies helped us to get support: we managed to get up to six weeks of therapy for myself and my daughter, but it shouldn’t have had to happen that way.
My experience is that in this rural area, there isn’t enough support for children and young people and there is no follow-up: no-one from CAMHS ever got in touch after the referral was rejected to find out how my daughter was doing. It’s also hard to access support because of the geography of our area: families have to travel too far to make it practical to get help.
If we hadn’t found help by ourselves, this could have ended tragically, and this I find unacceptable. The issues of fragile mental health have not left us, and we dread the thought of another crisis as we now know that we will be left to manage it alone.
An improvement in the services provided could be as simple as providing an 24hr online secure service for children and young adults, that enables any crisis to be identified early on and support given when required. It needs to be that simple and immediate – children can’t wait and often just need to speak to someone not related to them or who they have to see daily. Waiting for referral, being passed from pillar to post and ultimately nothing happening will be mean so many families slipping through the net, and ultimately bigger issues down the line.