Sunday, 14 March 2010

Slipping through the net

I visited a constituent earlier this week in her home to talk about housing problems she was experiencing. She was a lovely woman but she has an incredibly difficult life and it seems that nobody wants to take responsibility for helping her. She spent her childhood in care and was subjected to sexual abuse over a period of years. She tried to get on with her life and for a while she did. She had a job that involved working with and helping people (I'm being deliberately vague) and she married and had 3 children. But it got to the point where she couldn't suppress the memories of the sexual abuse any longer and knew she had to do something about it.

She spent more than ten years of her life pursuing justice and in doing so had to face up to everything that had happened in her life. She now suffers from severe post traumatic stress disorder and is bipolar which is the new term for manic depression. So she has a lot to contend with. And so do her family. Now divorced she's good friends with her ex husband and she has the comfort of her children. I didn't meet the son but I met her lovely girls who are 14 and 17. They are bright, articulate, intelligent girls who are spending far too much of their time fighting for their mum, mainly over the housing issue I went to see them about.

I won't write about the housing matter just now because I want to investigate it first. But the visit threw up some wider issues for me about what agencies were there to support her and her family. I wish I could name the school that the girls go to but I can't. I will be writing to them however because they have an incredible support system for these two pupils and I want to get more information - maybe I can share it with a school I know that appears to have NO support systems in place. My main concern was about the support she should be getting to manage her mental health problem but isn't and perhaps if she was getting it her two girls could have a bit more of a normal life.

It's not her fault she needs so much support. She didn't choose to go into care. She didn't choose to be abused. She isn't choosing to be ill now. She talked to me about how she would love to be the person she was when her children were young and she had that job. She wants to get back to having a normal life. But when I asked what support she got from the Community Mental Health team she said she'd never had any. She didn't even know they could help her.

I'm obviously going to contact them and her GP and make sure she does get help but it makes you wonder how many people simply slip through the net. Are they diagnosed with a mental health problem, given tablets and quarterly visits to a psychiatrist and that's it? Perhaps she's a one off but it's something I need to know about. And I'm not being critical of community mental health teams. If they don't know she exists what can they do? But surely it can't be that easy to slip through the net.

As I say she is someone who wants to get better, who wants to have a normal life and who wants her girls to know what it's like to be young and carefree. This is the kind of thing I love and hate about my job. It depresses me to think of what they're all going through day in day out but I really love the fact that my job title means I'm able to make a difference to them. It shouldn't take the intervention of a politician but if it does, I'm happy to do it.

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