How CAMHS put my life at risk and then discharged me
Being an Autistic teenager is hard. My life was no exception to this rule. After years of trauma and loss, I was at breaking point. Then, one day, my mother came to hurry me up with getting ready for school. What she found was not the resilient and hardworking son she was always so proud of. No, what she found was the husk of her child. Unable to speak or do anything but rock back and forth while sobbing. This is a story about CAMHS.
I was 15 years old, and for the next three months, I would barely be able to leave the house. Let alone attend school.
It transpired that the person who would be the most helpful was a paediatric doctor. I wasn’t seeing him for my mental health. I was seeing him for bowel and stomach related issues. He became deeply concerned with my suicidal ideation and stress levels, and wrote to both my school and my GP to insist I have a referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) made.
The truth is that at 15 years old, I didn’t see any point to my life. It felt as though suffering were all I was destined for, and I would be better off leaving this world, taking with me the burdensome weight of my pain. I waited only a few weeks for an appointment to be made with a CAMHS psychiatrist.
I have always communicated best through written word and art. So, naturally, I took with me to the appointment writing and drawings that contained some of the darkest machinations of my suffering. If there was a chance for help, I wanted them to see how deep my pain ran. I wanted them to know the truth so they could best support me.
The psychiatrist was not interested. She did not want to see me writing or drawing. She didn’t care for the vulnerability I was laying before her in order to communicate my needs. I felt invalidated and small. Powerless. In her words, I was euthymic (meaning of good mood) and a school refused. She acknowledged that I was depressed but made it clear that if I did not want to take medication, I would be discharged.
The appointment lasted five minutes. I was discharged and labelled a school refused. My mother would go on to be threatened with legal action and fines. I went on to become a young adult, heavily addicted to drugs and alcohol, Schizophrenic, and deeply suicidal. I would not have my formal identification of autism until 6 months after I got sober.
CAMHS showed me then, even in 2005, that they didn’t care about children like me. At the time I thought I was just unlucky, but my time in the Autistic community has show me I am one of tens of thousands of Autistic children who have been failed by this service at some of the most crucial times in our lives.
That is why I am part of the ongoing campaign to hold CAMHS to account. Lives have been lost, and I am lucky mine wasn’t one of them. How can we make a better future for our children when services like CAMHS allow them to grow into adults for whom suffering is an everyday part of their lives?
I will not allow this to continue, and neither should you. We owe this to our children, and all children yet to come.