Mother’s desperate plea for help after her teenage daughter wanted to die.
She said the pandemic is making an already ‘broken’ mental health service for young people even worse.
A mother has described in detail the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on her teenage daughter’s mental health.
Already out of school because depression, Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and an eating disorder left her too ill to attend, the teenager hit crisis point when she was isolated even further in lockdown
and over the summer.
Days after her 17th birthday last month she tried to take her own life for the fifth time in as many weeks.
Moved to an adult psychiatric bed because no paediatric psychiatric beds were available, the teenager then got hospital acquired coronavirus, her mother said.
The mother and daughter, who live in south Wales, do not want to be identified because of the stigma around mental illness. But they want to share their story in the hope it will help raise awareness and bring about change.
In her own words, the girl’s mother explains their fight for help.
In March at the start of the pandemic everything changed for my teenage daughter.
At 16 years of age she spiralled. She was stopped from her volunteer role working with animals and there was no more tutoring. No one was shouting for the kids out of the school system during the lockdown.
The in person medical care she had had was non- existent for an entire month before the online/telephone appointments started.
She was left to fend for herself.
Then in August there was wall to wall coverage of the exam results fiasco. My daughter said this reminded her that as she approached 17 she did not have any qualifications. She does not have a school or classes, all because she has a mental illness. Her anguish grew.
Depression, OCD, anxiety, and an eating disorder are the long term conditions she lives with. It’s a battle she’s bravely fought over four years. The scars are visible and yet unseen.
Devoid of help and her support avenues cut off during the pandemic, Covid-19 has another victim.
In early September my daughter tried to take her own life, not once but five times in as many weeks. Four times we went to hospital she was sent home.
The last time I took her to our local accident and emergency department at 3am. My husband had to stay at home with my son.
Covid-19 measures are in place at accident and emergency and I was told my daughter, by then just a few days past her 17th birthday, must go in alone. She hadn’t wanted to mark her birthday, she didn’t see a reason to celebrate it.
Eventually they agreed I could go in with her and for three days we were in accident and emergency. We were moved to a cubicle. All the time my daughter was in a mental health crisis. Just waiting. No paediatric in-patient beds were available. The decision was made to send my daughter home for the fifth time in as many weeks.
This time my daughter took a stand and would not go home. She knew how ill she was. We cried together.
I am grateful to the nurses who saw her and how ill she is and would not send her home. They saw her and cared for her with food and drink. They were already doing so much. I can’t give the same praise to a duty doctor who wanted to send her home.
My daughter is being failed by a broken system failing so many children and nothing is being done, nothing is changing.
The only bed available was in an adult psychiatric unit. Even the staff said this was not suitable for a 17 year-old, but we had no choice but to take it. The other option was to send her home again. With all our hearts we want her to live.
We took the option of the adult ward, a ward not geared to the mental health needs of a young person. After two weeks there my daughter tested positive for coronavirus, from within the hospital. She was on an isolation ward for 10 days in an already isolated environment causing her more distress.
Six weeks have passed now and my daughter is still in the adult unit, no paediatric bed is available in Wales. She is stuck in the place that is the safest for her right now. We are no closer to an inpatient bed in Wales.
We are in limbo every day. A glimmer of hope is waved our way, a bed could be requested in England. Miles from home, miles from family.
My family have witnessed first hand how mental health services for young people have got worse during Covid-19. It is a living nightmare. I am scared. Scared for us and for other young people who like my daughter go to accident and emergency in crisis and who are sent home. If you break a limb, you have immediate care. If it’s mental health, go home.
I am a mum and I can’t do anything to help my child who is suffering. I am thankful for the accident and emergency staff who took a stand in September and the nurses doing their best at the adult unit, but they are not trained to deal with young people.
There is enough evidence of poor mental health in children for it to be funded appropriately. A full overhaul is needed to support our young people, proper funding for quicker access to treatments and facilities is needed now not in years because it will be too late for so many.
I feel angry and helpless. I have been defeated by a system but I want to tell our story to raise awareness. I hope for change.
WalesOnline asked the Welsh Government how many paediatric psychiatric beds there are in Wales, whether the shortage means young people are having to go to hospitals in England and where youth mental health is on its agenda.
A spokesman said: “The mental health and well-being of children and young people is a key priority for the Welsh Government. We are working with health boards and specialist commissioners to improve the care pathway for young people who require in-patent support for their mental health needs.
“Whilst we have two dedicated NHS inpatient units in Wales, there will always be the need for a small number of children and young people to receive their care in a specialist unit outside Wales which provide support for the whole of the UK.
“We have robust arrangements to ensure the quality and safety of placements made outside of Wales.”
For confidential support, the Samaritans can be contacted for free around the clock 365 days a year on 116 123.
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