Saturday, 12 March 2016

Lola's Story Of Failings In CAHMS #FailingsInMentalHealth

My name is Lola, I'm a 19 year old blogger and I live with my boyfriend (18) who suffers from severe depression, anxiety and fibromyalgia. I'll be talking about his experiences with CAHMS from ages 13 - 17, he has asked me not to include his name.

At the age of 13, he ran away from home as a result of his mother's physical and emotional abuse. On returning home, he was referred to CAHMS for the first time. The first problem he faced was CAHMS inability to recognise the problems he was facing with his mum as an abusive situation.
He had tried to open up to a therapist - but a letter was sent home to his mum summarizing the family problems he was discussing in sessions. Following this, his mum demanded that he tell her the outcome of every single session - so my boyfriend no longer felt safe discussing anything with his CAHMS therapists.
When we met, he was no longer receiving regular therapy from CAHMS. When we started dating, we had to keep our relationship secret from his mother due to her explosive tantrums and controlling behaviour. Eventually she found out and attacked him - promting him to successfully leave home with the help of a local service and the school counsellor. In this time, he was re-referred to CAHMS, finally able to discuss the abuse he was suffering at home.

In this time he went through several different psychotherapists and psychologists. The therapists varied in their methods - some told him that he needed a relationship with his mother in other to recover while others suggested vague and unhelpful coping methods for his anxiety and depression. He did eventually find a therapist who understood his needs, but she was made redundant from the service and he refused further therapy due to the inconsistency.

He saw two different psychologists, the first put him on antidepressants that significantly worsened his symptoms. He was experiencing nightly panic attacks and auditory hallucinations. Despite his discussions with his psychologist - his dose was only increased further. My boyfriend was then told that his symptoms might be the result of "brain tumors" and that he needed a scan - but this was never actually booked.

He moved onto another psychologist who changed his medication. Despite his very obvious depressive symptoms and suicidal tendencies - CAHMS only ever referred to his condition as 'low mood' and never actually depression. He was only offered 3 monthly appointments and his doctor was so unfamiliar with him that he forgot details such as his change of address or the fact that he had left full time education. The doctor also claimed that he was "getting much better" each session, despite my boyfriend constantly telling him that his mood was only worsening and the medication was not effective.

My boyfriend's anxiety became so bad that he needed me to to accompany him to all his CAHMS sessions, allowing me to witness the services' disregard to his well-being first hand. At the age of 17, he was also receiving support from a Gender Identity service as a transgender boy. He had told his gender therapist that he had attempted suicide very recently and this therapist made sure to inform his Doctor at CAHMS.

The next appointment at CAHMS rolled around and the Doctor once again insisted to my boyfriend that his condition was improving. We argued that he had attempted suicide recently - quickly learning that the Doctor had only "skimmed" the letter from his other therapist. My boyfriend was furious and it was obvious that his psychologist had not been properly monitoring his condition at all. That day he walked out of CAHMS and refused to go back.

It was at this point that my boyfriend and I were living together and I was more or less his full time carer. He was unable to go outside unaccompanied due to his anxiety. Despite our requests, his doctor at CAHMS made no effort to refer him to adult services, leaving us to go at it alone. This process took months - and it still isn't over.

He was assessed by a community mental health team - who refused to believe that he suffered from anxiety in regards to going outside because we discussed going out for meals on occasion. They also denied that he had symptoms of depression because (word for word!) he smiled and seemed cooperative during the assessment. The worst part came when he was asked about his alcohol consumption. Being a quiet and boring couple, we don't go out and drink or smoke or do anything like that. We play video games and chill with our cats!

My boyfriend explained that he drinks a vodka and coke on occasion, describing it to the assessors as "a 35cl bottle of vodka over a couple of evenings with coke cola". Somehow this was misunderstood as "drinking every night" which put an enormous spanner in the works of getting him any kind of therapy.
The mental health assessment ruled that he had to attend an alcohol and substance misuse clinic - who quickly confirmed that my boyfriend was not even drinking above the recommended government guideline of 14 units.

As it stands currently, my boyfriend is still not receiving mental health support. We tried the local "Depression & Anxiety Service" but they rejected him because he is suicidal. He attempted suicide again a few months ago, but because of his incorrect assessment with the mental health team - he was disregarded and classed as a "low risk". A care plan was not put in place because of the alcohol accusations, leaving him with no support following his attempt.

It's very much an uphill battle. Recently my boyfriend spoke again to adult mental health services, requesting a re-assessment. This was no granted, and the excuse they are now giving is that he cannot have psycho-therapy while he is undergoing a gender transition - which is nothing to do with his mental health conditions.

Thank you for reading about our experience with NHS Mental Health services. It's important for our voices to be heard as both patients and carers and we need to break the taboo of mental health. Thank you to beingtillysmummy for the opportunity to tell my partner's story.

You can find my blog at where I write about living on a budget. I also plan to write more about mine and my partner's experiences with mental health and his gender transition in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing! Hoping to read more people's stories soon :)