There are a couple of reasons I wanted to write this blog. One was to try and explain myself to me (i.e. why I’ve become so fucking angry and impatient), so I can have some peace. Another was to let parents who are new to the system know that sadly, it’s the loudest voice so to speak (not literally) that gets the help you need.
If you have a child with mental health issues, advocating for them becomes part of life. They no longer fit the norm and society’s still so ill-equipped to effectively manage anyone who can’t be squeezed into square holes. Society is run by a strict set of rules and schools and support services have policies and procedures that offer little, if any, flexibility. They’re often at odds with the needs of our kids and need to be challenged.
The whole mental health system needs more funding so it can grow to be more in line with need (as does every sector in health, I know). My theory is that if more is spent helping our affected adolescents, it’ll cost the system less over the lifespan of so many more people. Unfortunately governmental economists don’t see it that way…
The resources are stretched thin, but they’re out there. We know our kids best, and I only wish I’d been more proactive around some of the earlier decisions made about Jessie and her schooling. But I’ve learnt to ask questions, sometimes many, and voice our needs and my concerns.
It’s exhausting, frustrating and upsetting hitting brick walls, however I do find it bloody rewarding when I feel we have gotten somewhere. It’s so easy to slip through the cracks though if you don’t speak up and are consistent with that voice.
After Jessie’s suicide attempt I was shocked at the response of her psychiatrist and CYMHS. Her attempt was the Friday afternoon of the long weekend, so after coming out of ICU she went to the PECC ward until she was seen by a psychiatrist on Tuesday. In my first meeting with CYMHS and a PECC nurse I was told that her psychiatrist had said she could go home. I was dumbfounded. Jessie hadn’t been assessed, she was off all medication, was still feeling suicidal and had no safety plan for coming home. I had to question their thinking and ask where was their duty of care? How could they possibly justify sending home a teenager who was only alive because she unknowingly overdosed on medication that was very hard to die from??
In a later meeting I didn’t accept that Jessie wasn’t priority for getting into an adolescent mental health ward either. That conversation was very revealing about the workings of of this mental health care system – ‘priority’ isn’t about who is in the most need of mental health care in itself. I was told that Jessie had a bed, albeit in a less than ideal place for her (PECC ward) but still, she had a bed so was not top of the list for the adolescent ward. *scream*
I argued their reasoning around ‘priority’ and aired my grievances and concerns. Thankfully, with the hospital psychiatrist’s support, CYMHS finally agreed to find Jessie a bed in a ward somewhere around Sydney or up the coast as I was told the ward there was full.
We didn’t have to wait long though – a couple of hours later I had a phone call from the local ward telling me Jessie was there. I was over the moon. She needed this, and so did I to maintain any hope for us in this mental health system.
I’ve become hard headed and past being worried about stepping on toes or upsetting people when it comes to Jessie’s mental health care. However the constant battling and emotion involved is affecting my perception of myself. I’ve become easily frustrated and impatient in other areas of my life making me think I’ve turned into a cranky old cow – which I can be, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not all that I am. I’m learning tai chi for fuck’s sake!! I advocate for good causes too, which I need to keep in mind when I’m busy judging myself. There are so many wrongs in the world but I need to keep my mind balanced with the good that flourishes as well.