Friday 5 May 2017

Keeping your child safe when they're a danger to themselves

I wish I could say that when my son was under the control of the professionals (GP, CAMHS, the local hospital, etc) that I trusted them implicitly to keep him safe. But various things happened along the line that removed this trust. Then the other month I heard the tragic news about a friend's daughter who had been under the care of the professionals for her eating disorder yet had managed to take her own life. This week the media has been full of the equally tragic news of 15-year-old Pippa McManus (coincidentally a friend of a friend) who, just five days from being released from The Priory, threw herself under a train.

Of course for every failing there will no doubt be scores of success stories: young people who have received exemplary care for their eating disorder and who were indeed kept safe, whether as an in-patient or out-patient.

It's difficult enough to keep your child safe when you're caring for them yourself, at home, as I found. And, doubtless as Pippa's parents found, too, when she fled from the family home to the local train station.

One evening my son attempted to climb onto the house roof. It was a pure coincidence that some kind of sixth sense made me arrive in the nick of time and pull him back in.

Once he fled from my car, as it was moving. The trigger? The local hair salon had messed up his hair. It was some time before he returned home.

Then there was the night when he packed his bags and announced he was leaving home. Thank God his dad was there at the time and managed to talk him out of it.

And the afternoon when a friend's worried mother phoned to ask if I was aware that Ben had messaged her son to say "Give me one good reason why I should carry on living".

Despite hoovering up medication and harmful objects along with house and window keys, he still managed to climb out of a conservatory window and flee down the street screaming.

All I can say is thank God we don't have a railway station nearby.

So it's punishingly difficult even for the parents to keep their child safe.

But you do expect the professionals to have the manpower and expertise to prevent your child from harming themselves - or worse. Especially when they're in an in-patient facility.

And you do expect that, if they're discharged back home, that a proper follow-up care package has been put together to keep them safe.

It is frightening when the eating disorder messes with your child's mind and makes them want to take their own life. It is ten times as frightening when the professionals say that unless your child actually DOES something, they can't do anything about it other than to do a risk assessment to check the child's intentions.

But of course by then it could be too late...

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