Sunday 25 February 2018

Mum slams HSE after death of her son (14)

Jenny McCudden

The mother of a 14-year-old boy has slammed the HSE after his death by suicide. The distraught woman who lives outside Sligo says her son was failed by the HSE’s Child and Mental Health Services, (CAMHS).

The mother of three who wishes to remain anonymous says she believes the HSE let her son down. He had apsergers’s syndrome.

“I blame the service for not doing enough for him and crucially for not building a relationship with him from an early age,” she explains.

She says: “When he was about 18-months-old, he was first seen in Markievicz House as he had trouble hearing and he was diagnosed with grommets. Once this was sorted they told me I would see a big change.”

But as the years progressed, his behaviour was showing signs of autism, and the family tried to get a diagnosis locally, but in the end went private.

“We were in crisis. This child was unmanageable. Eventually tired of waiting, we went to Dublin to a private clinic and the professor said that he was a textbook case of a child with asperger’s syndrome.”

Following this diagnosis at the age of 7, the family did get a consultation with CAMHS who agreed that he had asperger’s syndrome. The family assumed he would then get the treatment to help his condition but say they were shocked to discover there was no co-ordinated approach.

“He developed a bowel disorder. This could have been psychological. We were up and down to Crumlin. I had to keep him off school for a year. The HSE in Sligo were useless. I made several complaints to the Autism Services in Sligo.”

He was given an appointment with an Occupational Therapist. As regards other therapies, the mum says: “I was offered a place in a group in Markievicz house for children with severe autism. Some of these kids were non verbal, this would have been no help to him. I expressed concerns at the time and we were called to a meeting. We were very angry. I was told to stop ringing the autism services and only to contact them in an emergency.

“But the only reason I was calling them was to help my son. I was told that the parent who shouts loudest gets the most. I wanted them to help me with a behaviour modification programme that I could employ at home. We never got any help in this way.

“They told me we would get a place on a parenting programme but we never got it. Our names were down but the course was always full.”

The mother admits that her son did get about two meetings a year with a child psychologist but it was not enough, and he got none in the last year of his life.

“He should have built a relationship with someone in CAMHS, but these vulnerable children see different people all the time. They did not intervene early enough. He never got any intensive therapy for what he had.

“The only doctor that was ever there for me and that our son trusted was a paediatric doctor but she told us she was not trained in psychiatry,” she adds.

As her son entered his teens, he developed a bad skin condition and in the weeks prior to his death, this greatly affected his mood.

“He was very low. He was crying all the time. He would stand there, look in the mirror and cry. We took him to the doctor and got a referral for CAMHS.”

However, tragically her teenage boy refused to attend the emergency meeting. Two days later he took his own life. His mother says: "He did not want to do. He said himself ‘sure what good will they do Mam? They are useless. What do you want me to go up there for?’ I do not believe that meeting would have saved him as he did not have the relationship with them.”

The grieving mum, whose son died at the end of 2012 contacted the Sligo Champion after the paper highlighted ongoing difficulties with Autism and Child Mental Health Services in the region. She says she felt compelled to then tell her story and to warn other parents of what could happen.

She explains: “My child was a high risk child as so many on the autism spectrum are. I feel very strongly about giving these parents support in their campaign for better services.”

Would she like an apology from the HSE? She says: “My daughters would benefit from an apology but it is not going to bring him back. His death has torn us apart. He was a loving boy, hilarious at times. I never believed a 14-year-old would do this. I never thought it could happen.

“But I can tell you we as a family we had war with the autism services in Sligo trying to get treatments, and like so many others that I’m hearing and reading about we always felt like we were going around in circles.”

Sligo Champion

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