Children suffering a mental health crisis are still being sent hundreds of miles from home because of a deficiency of NHS beds, and one defenceless child was sent to a unit more than 300 miles from home, and another child was located 285 miles away from their family by NHS Herts Valley in Hertfordshire.
Around 1,000 youngsters have been located out of the area, most were girls, around 731 compared to about 298 boys, and vulnerable kids are being sent over 300 miles from their families for treatment because of the shortage of beds nearby and it’s nothing short of a national disgrace.
For those struggling with a mental health condition, support from family and friends is essential, and all data reveals that out of area placements endanger the rehabilitation of people with mental health conditions, and it’s tragic that parents that are worried for their children will be miles away because of the government’s negligence, and there should be strategies to reduce these damaging placements to ensure that children and young people are treated closer to home.
Labour promised at the last General Election to invest more of the mental health budget in services for children and young people so that the money reached front line services, but nearly two-thirds of local health bodies reported unsuitable out of area places of children, but patients should be treated in an area which helps them to maintain the contact they want to keep with family, carers and friends, but it appears that the government do not save, they just destroy!
And it shouldn’t matter if you’re a child or an adult, people need family and friends close by to support them when they’re ill. Mental Health at the moment is a third world standard, and a really low priority to the government, whichever party is in power, and the staff who work in the NHS are at the sharp end and deserve a medal.
Unfortunately, we elected a cruel, self-serving government because as British citizens we appear to be rather ignorant, and we now need a new government!
It can be an incredible wrench for children to leave their homes and families, and being sent far away is not going to support a young person in crisis, and the government should be improving mental healthcare for children and young people, which should be an absolute priority.
It was the ninth time in a period of 10 days that Sherry Denness had attempted to kill herself. She felt like it was checkmate, and that there were no open doors or other ways for her life to turn, she simply wanted to die, and at only 18 years old, Sherry Denness had been diagnosed with a number of mental health conditions, including borderline personality disorder (BPD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
On seven of her nine suicide attempts, the teenager had landed in A&E, been patched up and considered well enough to be shipped home with no additional help. Another time she’d taken all of her prescribed medication in one go and ended up in critical care for two days. But once the physical manifestations had been dispensed with, to her parent’s desperation, she was just released and shipped home.
Sherry was found by the police on a pathway nearby, train tracks lying just ahead. They’d been alerted by a crisis team Sherry had called in her non-lucid state to ask about a place to live. It was a freezing cold night and Sherry was sitting cross-legged on the floor, there was a lot of blood because she had self-harmed again, and her clothes were scuffed from her efforts to climb the fence that stood between her and the train tracks.
And after checking with mental health professionals at the local hospital the police officer used his police powers to detain Sherry under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act. By sectioning Sherry, the police were able to do what they could to keep her safe and get her the help she clearly required.
At the time, Sherry didn’t want to go with the police and resisted their efforts to help her, and it’s thanks to them for calming her down, and for saving her life.
When Sherry’s mum, Andi, saw the blue lights of an ambulance from her kitchen, a cold tentacle of fear slid around her stomach. She ran out of the house, dreading the worst, and to see her daughter alive, and with the police, was an enormous relief.
When they told her that they’d sectioned her daughter, she felt her legs go from under her and she sobbed because she was so thankful that she was finally going to get into the hospital and get the help she so urgently required.
Sherry is from a really loving family but she wasn’t well so she hurt herself again and again, and each time the hospital sent her home, but the family were saying that she needed to be in the hospital because she wasn’t well. But things didn’t go smoothly even after she was sectioned. Once she’d been accompanied by the police to A&E to treat her physical wounds she should have been transferred to a children’s mental health unit.
But a lack of beds meant Sherry landed in an adult ward at a hospital in Guildford, where her parents say she was propositioned by a male patient in his 50s. So she was then transported to a secure children’s mental health unit in Sheffield, 160 miles away. It was the only place that was available.
She was eventually transported from Sheffield to another hospital in Guildford, near to her home, and there she started to feel more lucid and positive. She was eventually discharged and is now back at home with her family, but Sherry has spent almost a year of her life in mental health facilities.
She was 11 when she was first evaluated by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), were they took her mother to one side, and was informed that her daughter was an attention seeker and they didn’t actually take it too seriously, but finally at 13 years old Sherry was given medication for ADHD, but by then the children at her school had already started to bully her.
At school, Sherry was frequently kicked out of class for disruptive behaviour and spent most of her time in isolation. She couldn’t concentrate and no one listened to what she was saying.
When someone has ADHD it seems like everything is going 10 million times faster than normal and they don’t understand why people around them are so calm, so Sherry struggled to make friends and became increasingly withdrawn.
She started self-harming at 13 years old and was first sectioned by the police at 14, and at that point, Sherry’s parents chose to take her out of school, and the family feel that CAMHS let Sherry down for years.
After she was finally sectioned her parents made a viral video in which her dad, Chris, tells the story of those horrific 10 days by holding up a series of messages drawn on paper.
He then asked people to show they care about her, and about other young people struggling to get treatment for mental health problems by getting involved in a social media campaign under the hashtag#wecaresherry.
They began the campaign to give Sherry hope because she believed that nobody cared, and the family are also calling for changes in the way that CAMHS works. For instance, Sherry’s parents have argued that A&E is no place for a child who is having a mental health episode, even though that is where CAMHS tells people to go, but getting Sherry to A&E when she’s in a heightened state is a nightmare, and usually her parents have to call the police to get her there.
Both parents have been trained in safe restraint but have to take turns because her physical strength when she’s distressed can be overpowering, and at A&E it can be about six-hour waits, with unsympathetic security personnel and receptionists who are simply irritated at seeing Sherry back in A&E again.
Sherry has been in A&E a number of times for self-harm and suicide attempts and parents of small children will look at her in disgust and shuffle their children away because they can see her clutching her arm or her leg, it’s not nice and it makes her feel even worse, and she can sit there for hours and hours until they can get a CAMHS person to come and see her.
In the 10 days that Sherry tried to kill herself nine times, she was seen by 18 different healthcare professionals, ranging from staff from A&E to CAHMS, but none gave the help she required to address the root of her problems, and her family said that the threshold for obtaining this help is too high.
They’re further calling for more investment in CAMHS and better training for the staff young people experiencing a mental health crisis might come into contact with, including teachers, the police, paramedics and A&E doctors and nurses. They’d further like to get the message out that early intervention is essential because a lot of this could have been avoided if Sherry had got the help she required earlier.
In many areas, it’s desperately difficult for young people to get the help they require, and many parents have been waiting months for appointments for their child and have nowhere to turn, and sometimes their children have started to self-harm, have become self-destructive or dropped out of school throughout the wait.
Only one in four children with mental health problems is currently getting help from CAMHS, but there’s a postcode lottery, with services far better in some parts of the country than others, and some children are waiting up to 18 months to be treated.
And this further reverberates Sherry’s family’s concerns that those who work with children and young people, in schools, GP practices and A&E, for example, sometimes lack the abilities to recognise and help children with mental health needs, limiting their access to professional help, and CAMHS turns away almost a quarter of the children referred to them for treatment by concerned parents, GPs and others.
Without a doubt, after years of drought, the NHS’s mental health funding taps have now been turned on, but it’s going to take years of combined working effort to resolve these service gaps, even with new money, given the time it takes to train the extra child psychiatrists, therapists and nurses needed.
It’s been more than three months since Sherry came out of the hospital and, buoyed by the #wecaresherry campaign, she’s started to make recovery boxes for other young people struggling with their mental health. The boxes include home comforts like fluffy socks and chocolate, as well as stress toys and information on coping methods.
Sherry got her own recovery box after coming out of the hospital and her favourite things include “an unsquishable stress ball” and coconut hand cream because it smells like holidays, but when she’s low she finds it very lonely, she denies herself nice things like this because she believes she’s helping herself by punishing herself, so when someone goes out of their way to send a box it’s really nice.
She loves helping people and wants to be a police officer for that reason, and she explained this to PC Coe and his colleague over the course of the hours they spent together waiting in A&E and then waiting for Sherry to be transferred.
It’s great to learn that Sherry has big plans for the future, and she asked PC Coe if a police career would be possible after all her run-ins with the police because she was concerned about being ostracised because of it, but he reassured her that she hadn’t done anything illegal, and being sectioned wasn’t the same as being arrested, it was something that could happen to anyone.
Sherry’s dream to join the police may seem unusual for someone who has had so many traumatic experiences involving them. She’s been resuscitated by the police, she’s been detained and sectioned by the police but they’ve stopped her from doing things that she was determined to do, but even after all of that she thinks that they’re highly underrated and deserve a lot more respect.
For now, Sherry is concentrating on getting better and helping other people in the meantime. She still has her low days and still struggles but it’s more endurable, it’s never going to go away and she’s come to terms with that, and there will be days during her life when she’s not going to want to be alive, but she’s come to terms with that as well.