Ben Nelson-Roux and Chris Nota: Two tragic tales of systemic failings

This article was Co-Authored by Tanya Adkin and David Gray-Hammond

Trigger Warning: Death, drug and alcohol use, suicide, systemic failure, mental health crisis, inpatient psychiatric care.

The 13th of September 2022 saw the opening of inquests into the deaths of two teenage boys.

Ben

On the 8th of April 2020, Kate Roux forced her way into the room of an adult hostel where she found Ben Nelson-Roux, her son, dead, having been there all day. This happened despite multi-agency involvement and repeated attempts to seek help for her son. Ben was known to be “high-risk” of child criminal exploitation. He was 16 years old. What “high-risk” actually means, is that he was being exploited criminally, and services knew about it. There was no “risk”, this was actively happening. Consultant Psychologist, David Loveday-Simms described him as having a “chaotic and risk taking lifestyle”, this being part of a long history of victim-blaming. He also stated that Ben had started smoking cannabis at age 12. Where was the support for a psychoactive drug user at such a young age?

Loveday-Simms interviewed Ben shortly before his death, and concluded that “he was not a slave to anyone”. Demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of child exploitation. It is frankly terrifying that a CAMHS consultant psychologist demonstrates so brazenly, a lack of understanding around power-exchange, coercive control, modern day slavery, and child exploitation.

That’s not the worst bit.

Loveday-Simms said “I agreed with Mrs Roux that Bens accommodation posed a significant risk to Ben” upon his final encounter with Ben’s mother, before his tragic death. It appears that Ben had been housed as a known child, vulnerable to exploitation, with a history of drug use, and documented attempts to take his own life, in an unsupported hostel for homeless adults. His mother feared that he would die within weeks if correct support was not put in place.

The consultant psychiatrist told the coroners court that Ben would use cannabis and other drugs heavily, which left him paranoid. The night before he died, Ben’s mother had begged for him to be sectioned under the mental health act.

Ben was Neurodivergent, and according to his mother had been struggling with “ADHD, severe mental health issues, and drug and alcohol abuse for years”.

Chris

On the 7th July 2020, a young man fell to his death from a bridge in Southend-On-Sea. It is reported that following a deterioration in his mental health, due to the death of three relatives, he had turned to cannabis to calm himself. It wasn’t Chris’ first visit to this bridge. Paramedics had previously found him at this same bridge on June 27th 2020.

“Coroner Horstead said to Dr Ball: “On June 29th your colleague said you couldn’t keep him [Chris] safe. Was that a view you agreed with?” Dr Ball replied: “That was a view of the whole team that we couldn’t keep him safe at the time.” The coroner said: “Your colleague said there needs to be a hearing for funding. It was unanimous as a team that you couldn’t keep Chris safe in the community?””

Essex Live, (15/09/2022) Click here for more

Chris was Neurodivergent. It’s reported that Chris’ mother Julia had expressed concerns that she felt they were not meeting the needs of her son. She felt he needed specialist autism services. His mother feared that he would die without the correct support. Specialist services were not made available to him.

Chris was Autistic with a learning disability, a drug user, and had previously been sectioned under the mental health act for psychosis. He was 19 at the time of his death.

Discussion

These two deaths were almost three months apart to the day, and 231 miles in distance. Two neurodivergent teenagers. Two vulnerable people who tragically died.

Stories like these are not news to us. They don’t always result in death, sometimes it results in prison, sometimes in long-term hospitalisation under the mental health act. They all follow a similar thread. I don’t think we would be doing either of these young people justice, or the people we work with, if we didn’t acknowledge how far back the misunderstanding of neurodivergence and systemic failings go. It starts in healthcare with lack of healthcare access and a lack of up-to-date knowledge. Parent and victim blaming plays a big part. Discrimination based on stereotypes surrounding young males with “behavioural issues” also play a significant role.

The mess and the underfunding in the education system. The minefield that are Education, Health, and Care Plans (EHCP’s). Lack of social workers with specialist knowledge in neurodivergence, or indeed ANY professional with specialist knowledge.

This should not have to happen in order for people to realise that the system is broken; but that isn’t even happening, there seems to be no change on the horizon. We have a national problem, loads of Neurodivergent people are suffering unnecessarily. In our experience, services just don’t know how to support neurodivergence. Services aren’t designed or accessible for neurodivergent people.

But what would we know, after all, we are just neurodivergent people.

To read more about issues raised in this article, please see the Creating Autistic Suffering series on this website, the first article of which can be found here.

Published by David Gray-Hammond

David Gray-Hammond is an autistic mental health and addiction advocate living in the South East of England. He is in recovery from addiction and psychosis, as well as other complex mental health conditions. He was diagnosed as autistic seven months after achieving sobriety, and is resolved to share his experiences with the world in the hopes of being the person that he needed when he was younger.

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