My son was diagnosed with autism at 9, had trouble with school and family issues, started isolating himself at 13, and would go into periods of depression.
But that’s nothing compared to what he looked like when he was 16. A relationship breakup made him suicidal. He doesn’t want to interact with anyone anymore, to the point where he responds badly if I ask him how his day is.
His school knew he was devastated and advised him to call his GP. That was the first time he gritted his teeth. The GP actually said “here are some leaflets and some helplines”. He has felt even more alone since he sought help but was largely turned away.
Once he disappeared. Then I realized he had started expressing suicidal thoughts and when he disappeared he left some very worrying messages about how he planned to slit his throat.
The day he disappeared, I got a message saying he wasn’t at school. He won’t answer the phone for me or anyone else. He and his girlfriend are gone, and no one will say where they are. I was worried because he took a knife from our kitchen.
I’ve been looking for him all morning around the city. Two hours later, police found him hiding behind the fence at our local cricket ground. He was in such a bad situation that the police kindly drove both of us to the A&E.
He did have an assessment with someone from the Child and Youth Mental Health Services (Camhs) team. However, the EMT made it clear that there was nothing the hospital could do for my son that day and we should go home. He has a Camhs assessment and the service will be in touch.
They wouldn’t tell me what was causing him such pain because he had asked them not to tell me. This means I have no real guidance on how to keep my kids safe at home. They did say I should lock up all the knives because he had them before and the very strong pain meds I was on.
When we went to A&E I wanted him to get in because I didn’t feel like I could make him better and I was unprepared and inadequate. I feel very alone. I was out of my depth and was terrified that I was going to lose my baby. I just want someone to take him away from me and take care of him and make him better.
I was so confused when the A&E doctor said we had to go home. I thought they were going to keep my son inside given how miserable and vulnerable he was. I just thought: what state do you need to be in to be retained? I was in total shock.
I still don’t know what state you need to be in to actually get admitted, as my son was in such a bad state that admissions weren’t even discussed. It’s not a “do we want to” thing, it’s just a “go home”.
I think young people with mental health crises are just being fired. I’ve talked to other parents and the story is the same. Young people may have eating disorders, they may have definite plans to commit suicide, and the Camhs will say they’re not serious enough to require hospitalization. It makes me doubt that young people attending GP surgeries or A&Es will get the help they need.
Camhs ended up being very beneficial to my son. They did everything they were supposed to do. But all this came too late. He’s coping well now. He has girlfriends and is more aware of his mental health. I just hope we never have to go through a crisis like that again.
In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or by email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at befriend.