File Photo: Anguished Longford mum tells of how suicidal son has yet to see HSE child psychologist two years after referral
A despairing Longford mother has spoken of how her family has been “torn upside down” by the gross failings in the county’s mental health system after it emerged her 12 year old son who, despite openly speaking about suicide every day, is still no nearer to being clinically assessed, two years after first being placed on the public waiting list.
The astonishing nature of the case was relayed to the Leader this week by the despondent Longford mother of three as she told of the daily struggles she and her husband face to try and secure the help her eldest son requires.
In an emotionally charged and exclusive interview with the Leader, the woman, who expressed her desire to remain anonymous out of respect and mindfulness to her son, said the absence of a phycologist in the Longford/Westmeath area has left her family in the depths of despair.
The woman said her son was only enlisted with the Child and Mental Health Adolescent Services (CAMHS) in February after remarkably being initially refused an assessment.
“The second time he was 14 months on the waiting list before things got so bad that he felt he could not cope and we went to A&E (Accident and Emergency),” she said.
After a five hour wait, the boy held monthly appointments with a psychiatrist until his condition deteriorated and he was admitted to Linn Dara Inpatient Unit at Dublin’s Cherry Orchard Hospital.
It was a move which proved both short lived and unproductive in equal measure with the first year secondary school pupil effectively “acting his way” out of hospital.
“Since then, he was medicated and has recently been taken off it as it was making his moods and behaviours worse,” added the mother.
Throughout the whole ordeal, the troubled boy has yet to see a HSE approved psychologist despite being allegedly told that her son has been “very lucky” with the services he has received until now.
The family’s anguish and sense of exasperation was compounded in recent weeks when the boy's school made contact to inform his parents of a text message he had sent to a friend outlining how he had attempted to take his own life in the past.
It was a discovery which has since forced the boy’s mother to quit work so she can keep her son under effective “24 hour watch”.
She said, “If he has a good day we are delighted.
“He doesn’t like to leave the house much and likes to stay in.
“He says to me, ‘What’s wrong with me? The thing is, he just wants help but just doesn’t know how to express himself.”
In a last ditch bid to secure the necessary support for her son, last Friday the pair travelled to Dublin for an appointment with a private consultant despite being told any report compiled privately may not be recognised as it falls outside HSE approved guidelines.
In the wake of that appointment, the boy was diagnosed with Aspergers Anxiety Disorder in a development the Co Longford mother is giving a cautious welcome to.
“We have been battling for so long that it's strange to finally have an answer,” she said.
“As we now have a diagnosis he can start new services and can understand why he will have difficulties in the future.
“But my problem is only for this private assessment we would still be in limbo with what was really happening with our son.
“I feel angry that it has taken so long for this diagnosis. I feel angry that my son was sent to an inpatient hospital that he didn't need to be in; I feel angry that he was put on medication that maybe he didn't need to be on.
“But what really disappoints me is that he has been suffering for so long and is now almost 13 and he is only starting his journey through another stretched system (of our health services).
The possibility of therapy support from Pieta House has opened up possible alternatives to a family, she adds, that has been “left in limbo” by bureaucratic red tape and a chronic lack of financial backing.
“I don't in any way want to come across as ungrateful for the help my son has received as I know the team in CAMHS can only do so much.
“My point is had he seen the CAMHS team when he was first referred and had met with a physcologist, things for him would have been a lot different.
“My son and family have developed many scars from this journey, but we will, as a family, do whatever it takes to get him the help he needs and deserves.”