Wednesday’s royal visit has thrown into sharp relief the anguish of families in Blackpool struggling to get the mental health care they need for their loved ones.
Today a desperate Fylde man says he fears the 10-year-old girl in his care will end her own life if she cannot get help from mental health services.
The Gazette has chosen not to name the family and instead will refer to her as ‘Sheree’ and her carer as ‘David’.
The girl suffers from severe mood swings and knives have been removed from the home to stop her from hurting herself.
His comments come after it was revealed the UK is suffering a crisis in child mental health care.
And a leading Blackpool specialist has revealed the resort’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) is dealing with children as young as five who are suffering with poor mental health.
One-in-10 children in Blackpool is thought to have mental health problems.
‘Sheree’ was referred to CAMHS by her doctor in January, but ‘David’ later received a letter from the service informing him that she had been discharged without being seen.
It read: “When we last spoke we agreed there was no further role for our services at present and as such, Sheree has now been discharged.”
David, who has custody of Sheree, said: “It’s only a matter of time before she seriously hurts someone or herself. I have glass panels in the doors in my house. She won’t hesitate to kick the glass in and use the shards to cut herself.
“She’s a very, very troubled child.
“I have had to take her to the walk-in centre when she nearly cut off the tip of her finger. It was early morning; she punched one of my photographs and slid her hand down the glass. I had to grab some towels and drive her to Whitegate Drive where they glued it.”
David says he was in conversations with CAMHS in 2018 about Sheree’s extreme behaviour, and approached them again in January when she told him she had been hearing voices in her head telling her that people hated her and that she should run into traffic.
David, who is disabled and suffers from spinal spondylosis, said: “She won’t shower, she won’t wash. It’s like a switch goes off, and one minute she’s laughing and joking and the next she’ll say, ‘I want you to die’.
“It’s so hard to get children the help they need nowadays. There’s nothing here for her.
“It feels like we have been pushed to one side and told to get on with it. I find it absolutely disgusting.”
Sheree came to live with David in December 2017 after her unpredictable behaviour began to have a negative effect on her brothers and sisters.
He said her behaviour initially improved after moving in with him and starting in a resort primary school.
But everything came to a head last year when she told David that she had been hearing voices in her head.
“She said to me just before Christmas, 'I’ve got to tell you a secret. I’ve been hearing voices’.
“I said to her, ‘How long have you been hearing voices?’ and she said for a long time but she didn’t want to tell people because they don’t think they’re real.
“In the last few weeks, she has got very violent.
“Every day this week I have had to drag her into school in her pyjamas. It’s been a nightmare for me. She loves school, but she only gets four or five hours of sleep every night.
“It takes its toll on me as well. If I don’t get the support it’s really going to affect me. I’ve lost two kilos in weight from the stress.
“All I’m asking for is to get her the right help. She needs an evaluation to find out what help she needs.
“If it’s happening to her, how many other people is it happening to?”
A spokesman for Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “Whilst we cannot go into detail about the specific details of a person’s care and treatment we offer our assurance that providing high quality is our number one priority and we welcome the opportunity to speak to people directly through our hearing feedback team to fully understand and explore any issues they have experienced so that they can be resolved.”
Fylde MP Mark Menzies said: “I have raised concerns with Lancashire County Council’s Social Services department and the health authorities a number of times for this family; it is clear the service they have received is not good enough, and I continue to make representations on their behalf.
“It is paramount the various organisations work together to get the best care and outcome for this young lady, and also for her wider family.”
++ If you have been affected by the issues in this article, you can speak to The Samaritans confidentially.
They offer emotional support 24 hours a day, in full confidence.
Telephone: 08457 90 90 90 (charges apply).
++ Or contact the Lancashire Care Foundation Trust helpline service
Monday to Friday, 7pm–11pm; Saturday and Sunday, noon to midnight.
Telephone: 0800 915 4640 (freephone number)