Where to Turn? A mothers story of her sons MH crisis

Today I have a guest blog post from a friend who wants to remain anonymous simply to protect those around her… This post is a harrowing account of a mother trying to help her child with mental health issues and how the system is failing both the parents and the young  kids who are trying to make sence of their lives with the added complication of mental health issues.

I’m sure I’m not alone in asking that question, especially as a parent of a teen with mental health issues, who reached crisis point at 14. Who went from a reasonably confident, happy young man on the cusp of an exciting future with a good friendship group, girlfriends and a future. To one that was ill kept, frightened, angry and irrational.

There were warning signs of course, easy when you look back, we even tried to get help 12 months before the crisis hit – to be dismissed as he will grow out of it and there is a 12 month wait for CAHMS (Child and adolescent mental health services) so we went away..

Only a parent who has witnessed their child unravel at the seams, can appreciate the powerlessness and desperation to Do Something to help them and yet Where to turn?

I wont bore you with the details of abuse, physical violence, threats, door slamming as they once again leave to god knows where and will they return or will this be the time the police come to tell you your child have been, arrested, killed, admitted to A&E.

The constant tension of do I push and insist on rules and boundaries or accept they are ill and not just an angry teen…the people telling you it’s just attention seeking behaviours and the self harm is deliberate to prove a point, or the time he forced me out of his room so angry he punched a door and once again we had to go to A&E – those conflicted feelings… But

Where To Turn?

The sleepless night, the fear and worry impacting your own health, a sense of powerlessness, locked in a battle to get him help, to fight with school as he refuses to attend… No one ever did explain how you get a 6-foot; well-built angry teen to school…I’d like to see a welfare officer try.  But Where to Turn?


Many promises, all broken, he was dismissed as a drug user who was just being difficult and didn’t want to try – a member of the awkward club, intelligent but unwilling was never in trouble so down the list… Out of sight out of mind


Endless visits, endless brush offs he’s too young to be depressed, it’s a long wait for CAHMS, he isn’t really that bad just try to go out more, sleep better, get a routine…

Where to turn?

Then crisis hit the dreaded phone call – that even as I write this brings a lump to my throat… A friend had found him walking along the street… Virtually catatonic… Then finally a small breakthrough a GP who was actually listening and acted.

She got on the phone thinking it would be an easy referral – boy was she wrong after an hour of the run around she sent us home. Each bit of the system said oh we can’t see him not for weeks and weeks, lists are full, not our type of kid… In effect not our problem.

But she didn’t give in, round and round and eventually she got an emergency appointment in 48 hours… Unheard of but we were grateful. Well I was don’t think teen cared…

We entered the world of CAHMS – nice enough all lovely pleasantry but an angry mentally ill teen who didn’t want to be there, didn’t want to engage in fact didn’t really want to be anywhere… Was never going to be easy. I tried, I begged, I cried and he played with Lego!!

Well that’s not strictly true – at first he tried, was relieved to be heard and listened too we both thought we had got the help he needed. He was prescribed Prozac…  hmmm lets just say the aggressive angry teen become ever more so.

In Yr 10 he struggled on – was not there more than he was… By Easter he pretty much left and never went back. Yr 11 beckoned – he lasted till week 2, when he walked out never to return – school did not honour its promise – as far as they were concerned a room on his own with all the work he’d missed and no support was enough!!!

I cannot truly put into words the fear, isolation and horror of being left alone to cope – no real help, no strategies, no support for me just an ever-increasing crisis… But you see now under Cameron’s “trouble families criteria” we would be one – none school attendance, benefit reliance, council flat, mother with a disability – except we never got on anyone list or radar…

Just left to muddle along, our attendance at CAHMS was erratic, sometimes his dad would go, and sometimes he would go alone sometime he didn’t… School desperately tried to bamboozle me into home educating him… I clung on to one thing… NO I wouldn’t… He was ill they had to offer more… Finally in year 11, 6 weeks before his exams he got a home tutor… With help from his psych nurse – we prevailed the one tiny bright spot in our life at that point.

He had done some GCSE work intermittently in yr 10 on the rare occasions he went – he’s bright my lad and I worked hard to get him to agree to a tutor – His dad helped a bit, but mostly I was left alone to get on with it… Maybe I didn’t ask enough I don’t know but when you’re in the eye of the storm you kind of hope someone will take over and of course they never do…

those 6 weeks were a marvel his tutors were great he worked hard – do the bits of course work he needed and combined with just enough work from Yr 10 and a couple of exams he made the deadline…

That summer day _ I can still remember it clear as a bell he smiling beaming face 2 GCSE’s Maths and English grade C – he was euphoric my lovely, funny bright lad was there for just a moment…

Gosh my eyes are full of tears – perhaps only a parent of a teenager lost to you could understand the feelings when the child so dear to you and yet so lost shows a glimpse that they are still there somewhere…It gives you hope

I wasn’t foolish enough to know he was better, but he maybe had turned a corner… Or had he?

In truth yes and no – we have never returned to the horror times and he has never again threatened me… Perhaps the conversation where I kicked him out and sent to his dads about just how men become abusers of women… Who use violence and the threat of it to get their own way… Not a pleasant conversation to have with a 15 yr old…

He went to college, got through the yr just… Got in with yet another crowd who abused his desperation to fit in… Imagine if you can the utter despair of your 16 yrs old celebrating his birthday with 1 person who had remained… And not one other person came – I cannot begin to describe how much I wanted to pick him up and protect him from that pain…

I made mistakes god did I, my own fear and pain permeated our life… Just as much as his… But I tried I never once walked away… I took every bit of shit he threw at me… Cause after all who else would?

I’m no saint – far from it but I loved him then as I do now…

Forward wind 3 years… Its rough still and he is still a shadow of the 14-year old with such promise – he no longer lives at home, and our rocky relationship hanging by a thread is growing stronger…

He has little help, lives on ESA and is not shy in telling me how bad a parent I was how I let him down, how angry he was with me and by the time I did something at 14 it was too late what could I say but I’m sorry…

I don’t know how to end this blog post… The one none of you will, ever read… Other than why do we allow families to reach crisis point before anything is done?

why are you left alone to struggle on and no one helps – no one steps in and I’m just 1 mother with a son who flew off the rails, who lost his way and in the process almost lost himself…

I don’t know what the future holds for him – but we were never a problem family we just had problems… Mental illness can strike at anytime but for teenagers and their families the brick wall and impenetrable maze is soul destroying…

If I could change it I would

1. Have a pediatric psych on call in A&E not leave people to have to make an appointment and do it themselves with no support

2. Have rules around mental health for teenager so case conferences are triggered and early intervention happens to prevent a crisis

3. Have inpatient space for teenagers at risk who may not be acute but are close to it where time out and space to be assessed might prevent a total melt down

4. Offer help, support time out for parents and carers – give them advice and help not just leave them to cope cause you know what we don’t.

5. Have a fundamental review of CAHMS and mental health services in this country but not just from a professional’s perspective – from young people themselves they know what they need listen to them.

But above all I wish no other family has to go through what we did… Sometimes I allow myself an If Only moment… What could I have done differently? But more important what could someone else have done to help us when we most needed… Would he now be healthy and well enough to go to be in Uni or creating amazing art work or websites… I will never know. Because we only have now and somewhere out there is another parent facing the same thing…


11 Comments Add yours

  1. Dawn Willis says:

    YOU couldn’t have done anything differently, the services however need to stand up and be counted! It is vital that early interventions are applied on young people who encounter mental ill health, and they need to listen to the caregivers, the families.

    Rethink Mental Illness have a lot of support available for carers and siblings – please check them out. NONE of you need to be managing this alone.

    1. ravenswyrd1 says:

      I’ll pass that on thanks… Dxxx

  2. Absolutely heartbreaking. My niece had eating disorders and MH issues from age 13 . Now in her late twenties she is still struggling to cope and has had little to no support. He is so lucky to have your love and support, don’t ever forget that.

  3. Actually have a similar tale – occurred after divorce with both my daughters – first my eldest now 20, and is sort of occurring now with my youngest at 17 – and me disabled. Got help from CAMHS but they were useless …. now their Dad has given in and has left me to it … my eldest is now doing well, but my youngest does nothing really 😦 It truly is hard work ….. hugs xx

  4. Ruby Finnie says:

    please do not blame yourself you did what every good parent dose. it was the system that let you both down. why do i know i have been there not once but twice. then i became a mental health staff nurse that was when i had my eyes opened. mental health is the poorest section of the N.H,S at all ages. even when you have been a nurse they still let you down. now with the cut backs i grow even more fearful.

  5. mandy baird says:

    I so admire your courage in writing and posting this blog! it takes strength to admit that you can’t help your own child and even to admit that your child has mental health problems. Both my sons have suffered mental health problems, one has ADHD and is borderline Aspergers while the other is very much out of touch with the rest of the world, he has very black and white views and never accepts any kind of grey area or compromise.
    What people don’t realise is the impact it has on your own mental health, how exhausting it is living with such a child, the sleepless nights as you worry about what might happen to them and what might happen to you if you can’t cope. Mental health issues are far more common in teenagers than most people realise and for GP’s and other medical professionals to say that they will grow out of it or that they are too young to be depressed or they are just attention seeking is ridiculous and untrue.
    I hope that the relationship between you and your son grows stronger again and I am certain that in time he will see that you never let him down, that you always did all that you could but that there just wasn’t the help available. Do not ever feel like you failed because you didn’t, your son is still here. xx

  6. Patricia White says:

    The services are slowly improving so hopefully things will improve with your son too, it’s hard enough going through teens with them as it is, without adding illness into the mix, my heart goes out to you, I just want to say that to come through it all, shows that you are a strong person and that’s what’s got your son through, you never gave up and let him down, one day he will see that, they all grow up in the end. He might not be the child he was, but may still surprise you as the man he will become.

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