“To not have Aaliyah here, to not watch her grow up and live her life? There are no words.”
Lisa Bond is right. There are no words. What words can describe the loss of a 13-year-old daughter? How can you put a name to the grief inflicted by the death of a loving and loved child suffering such unbearable mental anguish that she took her own life?
The stories of loss we tell today are harrowing and heart-breaking in equal measure. Of course, at this time of national and international emergency, when our lives and how we live them are still being shaken in the kaleidoscope of Covid, there are crises everywhere. But few are as worrying, or as pressing, or as dismaying as the mental health crisis being endured by so many young Scots.
It should be made clear, however, this is not a crisis of the pandemic but the pandemic will, it seems inevitably, turn this lowering crisis into a full-blown emergency, a pandemic of mental illness, as one expert warns today. Successive Scottish governments have failed to ensure children and young people suffering mental illness receive the care they need, as quickly as they need it.
According to Tolstoy, all happy families are alike but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. While the loss endured by each family and the pain endured by each young victim is unique, shockingly, their stories are not, with common themes spiralling through them. Parents echo each other as they describe being politely directed from pillar to post as they tried to navigate a labyrinthine health service to find the help their child so badly needed, as they detail how every appointment seemed like the first, how they might climb a little ladder only to snake back to the start, again and again.
Making little progress, as the years passed, their child’s health deteriorated, and their 18th birthday loomed, meaning the specialist treatment for young people was no longer for them. Tragically, some of their children died long before then.
Too many families tell the same story of a desperate, relentless and too often fruitless search for expert help and compassionate, effective care. Doctors and experts tell another story, one of warm words from ministers but little effective action or investment. They tell of official reviews and action plans but on the front line, as we reveal today, experienced, specialist but deeply disillusioned psychiatrists are quitting, unwilling to continue fire-fighting from one consultation to the next, unwilling to listen to any more empty promises.
So there are no words to describe the loss endured, and being endured, by so many Scots because our mental health services for children and young people are over-stretched and under-resourced.
However, there is one word for ministers being urged to act by doctors, charities, experts and parents. Now.
Samaritans can be contacted via their helpline 116 123 or by email email@example.com
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