Monday 21 October 2019

'Our family is broken' - desperate mother writes to Health Minister for help with son (10) who is self-harming

'Every night I go to bed worried if he's going to be alive the next morning' - desperate mother writes to Health Minister

Jennifer Hurley wrote to Simon Harris outlining the struggles she is facing with her 10-year-old son Séan.
Jennifer Hurley wrote to Simon Harris outlining the struggles she is facing with her 10-year-old son Séan.
Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Arthur Carron
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

A mother-of-four is calling on the Minister for Health for better mental health services after revealing her ten-year-old son is repeatedly trying to take his own life.

Jennifer Hurley (29) from Cork wrote to Simon Harris outlining the struggles she is facing with her 10-year-old son Séan.

Speaking on the Neil Prendeville show on Cork’s RedFM 104-106, Jennifer said that Séan was diagnosed with autism at the age of six and was recently diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder.

The young mother-of-four said that her son is regressing everyday and has attempted suicide on many occasions.

"He threw himself out in front of a car two weeks ago. He said he did it because he was hungry. He doesn't understand. He's not coping with the demands of his life. That was the way he expresses himself," Jennifer told Neil Prendeville.

"He told his teacher he's going to stab himself in the head, or he's going to stab himself in the arm. He had a meltdown last week and he said he was going to throw himself out his bedroom window. I was out in the front garden rocking my one-year-old son in his buggy looking up to make sure Séan didn't throw himself out.

"Every night I go to bed worried if he's going to be alive the next morning. I have to wait for him to settle down in his room. It was 4am this morning before he eventually settled down. He'd be walking up and down the floors hitting himself. He's constantly self-harming. He hits his head off the wall and he makes himself dizzy. He also threatened to burn the house down with all of us inside it."

Jennifer said she worries for her son's future and fears she won't be able to stop him as he becomes older.

"When he was younger I could put him into his cot to keep him safe. He's bigger now and I can't do that. He has hit me, he doesn't realise his own strength. He has never hit his siblings thank God, but even when he plays with them he can be quite rough.

"He is vocal about how he feels but he can't rationalise his feelings."

Earlier this week, Jennifer wrote a letter to Minister for Health Simon Harris calling on him to improve mental health services in the country.

"I probably won't get a response but I needed to get the word out there. I'm not the only mother sitting at home concerned for my son about this. I'm afraid to go to sleep because I don't know what's going to happen to him."

She said that Séan does receive therapy from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) but that it isn't enough to stop Séan from regressing further.

"He has counselling sessions but he's still very hard to manage. He's constantly angry and screaming that he doesn't want to be here.

"I don't want my son to be the example that something bad happened to him and it makes the Government take action.

Jennifer said that Séan is on two different types of medication to help him sleep and to calm him down.

"They're only numbing the problem. It's going to get worse, it's not going to get any better. He needs proper help expressing himself. He's shutting down.

"I've enquired about home-schooling because he's not responding well to school. He needs a break.

"His needs were neglected after he was diagnosed with autism at the age of six. He's crying out for help. Our family is broken. It shatters us to look at him and see that he's getting worse.

"Broken children end up being broken adults, if they make it to adulthood. The mental health system is neglecting my son and I feel like I'm failing my son."

Speaking to, a HSE spokesperson said they acknowledge and sincerely regret any waiting time for ASD services.

"Efforts are ongoing to improve access to services in Cork and Kerry, but the volume of referrals relating to autism poses an ongoing challenge. A specific piece of work has commenced in an effort to address the current wait lists for ASD services in the region.

"The HSE and the service providers are working together to standardise the ASD assessment process which will increase the numbers seen. We have also started an initiative with private providers who will provide a significant number of assessments, which will make a substantial contribution to reducing waiting lists.

"On average 60% of the monthly Assessment of Need applications received result in a referral for an Autism Spectrum Disorder Assessment, this is a significant challenge in terms of our capacity to respond to this need. These cases are referred to ASD assessment teams, which are part of funded voluntary agencies.

"As your query mentions a child who is suicidal, we'd like to stress that if a parent or guardian has immediate concerns about a child, they can contact the team providing care for that child eg a CAMHS team or GP. Out of hours, they can contact South Doc on 1850 335 999 or An out of hours medical  Camhs on call service is also available in the Cork city emergency departments," the spokesperson said. has contacted Simon Harris for comment.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News