Susan's Story - How Rethink Mental Illness saved my daughter
I have absolutely no doubt that, if I had not found the Rethink Advice and Information service in 2001, my daughter would be dead.
One night, she was, sectioned under the Mental Health Act, and detained in hospital. She was prescribed some medication we had never heard of, and dumped back on us with no explanation, no help and no support. We had no idea what to do.
Naively, we thought that a diagnosis would automatically bring support and effective treatment. I now know that getting this is a complete lottery. Before that night, we had five years of increasingly unmanageable behaviour – massive tantrums, no sleep for any of us, angry accusations of things we knew we hadn’t done – and no real help from anyone.
I was told this was all just normal teenage behaviour – but I had been a youth leader for 20 years and knew this wasn’t the case. If I'd known then about Rethink Mental Illness, I’m sure the outcomes for our family would have been different.
Katie would prowl round the house all night, and wake us every ten minutes to make sure we were OK. She'd refuse to eat any food she hadn’t monitored. And she'd snatch the phone every time it rang, and smash it on the floor if she thought the caller was part of the conspiracy. I'm sure you can understand the heartache of watching my daughter suffer this kind of torment and stand by, unable to help her.
Katie decided she wasn’t safe at home and persuaded her psychiatrist she would be better if she moved out. No one involved in her care would listen either to me or her sister. On one of the rare occasions when Katie came to our house, she told me that she knew she had no future, and there was only one way out.
At that point I stopped going to work. I spent a week on the phone to every help organisation I could find. The only one with any idea what we were going through and – most importantly – what we could do about it – was Rethink Mental Illness.
What followed was several years of using Rethink Mental Illness for advice on getting her the best care. They helped us find a specialist mental health lawyer, secure funding for a special care unit, and push for an independent inquiry into the care Katie had received. This inquiry concluded that our local Community Mental Health Team had "ceased to function". The local authority was forced to make huge improvements to mental health care in our area.
Katie was then very gradually eased into independent living in her own flat. By then, the constant flow of advice from Rethink Mental Illness had given me the knowledge and confidence to insist on
the support I knew she'd need. I also had the respect of everyone on Katie's care team, and we still have an excellent therapeutic partnership today – with full recognition on both sides of each other’s expertise.
But we still needed advice. Katie was refused benefits – vital to allow her to continue her journey to independent living and recovery. It took a year, but with help once again from Rethink Mental Illness, we managed to get the benefits she needed.
As Katie's mother, it would be ridiculous to put a price on the help we have had from Rethink Mental Illness. No other organisation anywhere had the knowledge or understanding to provide this, as well as the means to put it at our disposal.
Now I'm part of a Rethink Mental Illness support group. I rarely need the advice line for my family, but I usually make at least one query a month to follow up with something for my group. I’ve lost track of how many of their factsheets I’ve posted out!
I have personal knowledge of at least four lives which were almost certainly saved because of contact with Rethink Mental Illness’ advice service. Others were given the tools to get much better quality of care, and now their lives have been immeasurably improved.
So if you can give today – this is how your gift could make a difference to someone like me. Thank you for reading.
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