Young Minds Matter? Liza’s Story

A couple of days ago I was contacted by a desperate lady called Liza who told me the story of her 15 year old son who suffers with OCD and whose treatment is painfully lacking.

I want to share their story with you. Forgive me if areas seem vague but I want to retain their privacy whilst getting the story down. For the purposes of this blog Liza’s son will be known as Sam.

Sam is fifteen years old. When he started secondary school he had a bright future ahead of him. He was a prize winning student who was predicted all As and A*s in his GCSEs. Now Sam is predicted to fail all but two of his exams and he’s not been in school since Christmas. Sam isn’t a truant though, his life hasn’t been changed by crime or any other misdemeanour. Sam has obsessive compulsive disorder.

It was back in 2010 when Sam was first under CAMHS but Liza tells a story of erratic care, of passive aggressive comments about how surely she ‘can keep him safe’ and, most importantly, of Sam’s condition worsening and worsening to the point where twice a week he shuts himself in the bathroom for the entire night. Sam and Liza are both exhausted. They know they aren’t equipped to deal with this on their own, they are not only open to help but are practically begging for it.

Sam got offered an elective admission to a mental health unit in January and they felt that they had finally got somewhere only Sam was never admitted as there was no bed available. Liza has done all that she can think of: contacted her local MP, the trust’s Chief Executive, her GP, journalists, campaigners; she doesn’t know where to go next, doesn’t know who will listen.

After contacting me via Twitter both Liza and I tweeted the trust, hoping that a little public fuss might rally some action. It seemed to work. On Monday night Sam was offered admission at 11am the next day. They had a sleepless night as they stayed up talking, getting ready, allowing Sam the space in his head to come to terms with the admission and for everything that meant to him, his family, his compulsions. On Tuesday morning however Liza got another phone call, the bed had been taken by an emergency, Sam wasn’t going anywhere. Liza was devastated, Sam utterly bereft. He had no sleep last night either has he spent his entire night in the bathroom.

How have we let our mental health services get to the point where you more or less need one foot off the precipice before you receive care? How can we all chime in agreement about how young minds matter but then give the message to Liza and Sam that Sam’s doesn’t? How can we let a promising and bright young child get to the point where his education has suffered to such a degree that he’ll be lucky to gain two GCSEs? How can we leave people to cope until it is too late?

Sam said to Liza that he thought he was now beyond help, that he’s scared that he doesn’t know who he is without OCD. Liza’s heart broke.