Isolated, frightened and desperate for help is how a mum from Margate describes her situation as she battles to get mental health support for her son.
The mum, who has asked not to be named, says her 11-year-old son was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) when he was seven but has received only medication despite pleas for help with his behaviour.
The 30-year-old says she has been left to cope alone with her son’s highly unpredictable and aggressive mood swings and, as he gets older, is increasingly unable to deal with the outbursts.
The boy was first seen by professionals when he was three-years-old as he struggled to adjust to being in nursery. He went on to St Gregory’s school but was excluded at the beginning of Year 4 for assaulting a teacher.
He was referred to Orchard House, which provides emotional and mental health support for children and young people, aged 6 and received his diagnosis a year later.
But his mum says he has had no access to therapy, despite being told this would be available to him from October last year, has not been assessed since diagnosis and has not been seen by a professional in any capacity for at least 18 months.
Intent to hurt
In a plea to Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services the mum wrote: “**** is being treated for ADHD and ODD, however he is displaying the following behaviours – destruction, intent to hurt people and animals, violence, persistent deceitfulness, lack of empathy and remorse. This is persistent and not occasional despite boundaries and routines set at home and in school. I am very worried about my son’s future if he doesn’t get the help he needs now.”
But the mum says no help from NELFT (North East London Foundation Trust), which runs children’s mental health services in Kent, has been forthcoming and says her emails are often ignored until she threatens to lodge a formal complaint.
She said: “He struggled immensely in all his years at St Gregory’s, spending the majority of his days on detention and having me supervise him for lunchtime. I decided to apply for an EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan), which I got with no support, and he was then sent to Little Oaks in Ramsgate and had 1-1 tutoring.
“He joined Palm Bay primary where he displayed very challenging behaviour despite their best efforts and they helped push for him to be sent to a special school. He then joined a specialist school where he still struggles.
“He has recently got worse, his teacher is struggling and there is a problem every day where they need to call or email me. The school has sent a long report to children’s mental health services to say he desperately needs to be seen.
“I am struggling. I am a single parent and have no help from anybody. My life is limited to when he is in school as his behaviour is so difficult I cannot take him out of the house.
“One minute he will be excessively happy, rolling around the floor laughing, and the next he will lash out and be extremely aggressive. He blurts out random things and cannot be left unsupervised.
“I’ve not been shown how to restrain him safely and he is a strong boy, nearly as big as me now, and I can’t leave him with anyone to give me a break. He just doesn’t understand cause and effect, he has no empathy and just does things.
“I feel isolated. I’m a very private person and I feel like I have been forced to reach out just to get someone to listen to me.”
The mum says she made a call to Orchard House last week asking for someone to see her son and enquiring about the promised therapy but was told the sessions were no longer an option because she had taken a NVR (non-violent resistance) course to try and deal with his behaviour back in March.
She said: “I was crying on the phone, saying someone needs to see him and help now and the lady offered me a phone appointment for 10 days time to review his meds. I said I need help now and she said that’s the best she could do.
“Where do I turn? Are there other parents housebound on their own, with a violent unpredictable child that have no support anywhere? I just don’t know what to do, we need someone to come and see what’s going on and to help us.”
NELFT has been delivering children’s and young people’s mental health services in Kent since September 2017 via a contract transfer.
A NELFT spokesperson said: “Due to patient confidentiality, we are not able to discuss individual cases or patient treatment.
“Caring for our patients and providing them, their families and carers with support is our priority. We know patients’ conditions and circumstances can change, so we conduct weekly reviews of those waiting for treatment to identify any high risk patients.
“We stay in regular contact with patients, providing clinical assessments and reviews if needed and encourage them and their families to let us know of any developments to their condition so we can re-triage and re-assess the care they need.
“We are continuing to work closely with commissioners and the wider health and social care system to support children and young people in Kent and Medway.”
What is ADHD and ODD
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a condition that includes symptoms such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
Those living with the disorder may have a short attention span, be constantly fidgeting and act without thinking. ADHD can often be treated with medicines and talking therapies.
Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a childhood disorder that is defined by a pattern of hostile, disobedient, and defiant behaviours directed at adults or other authority figures. ODD is also characterised by children displaying angry and irritable moods, as well as argumentative and vindictive behaviour.
The 11-year-old described to a teacher how he feels, saying that “he feels like there is a fire inside him that is his energy and this fire gets bigger until he can’t hold it in any more.”