Leave a legacy to change how we treat mental illness

You and I know that the healthcare system is failing many people affected by mental illness. We know how difficult it can be to get help for our loved ones. And we don’t want other families to have to face it alone.

Rethink Mental Illness are helping to plug the gaps. They help people negotiate the healthcare system. They support people in their communities. They are there at times of crisis.

But much of their work depends on people who’ve been affected by mental illness remembering them in their wills.

So because of those we’ve lost. And because of those we’ve saved. It’s down to us.

You don’t have to be well off to leave a legacy. Any amount, large or small, will make a difference.

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Chris

“If I hadn’t found Rethink Mental Illness, my son would be dead by now.”

On a night I can still hardly bear to think about, my teenage son Chris was handcuffed by the police and sectioned under the Mental Health Act. 

We’d known something was seriously wrong for some time. He had massive tantrums, refused to go to school, and would angrily accuse us of things we knew we hadn’t done.

Chris was discharged from hospital, prescribed some medication and sent back to us with no explanation, no help and no support. We had no idea what to do or where to turn. 

His paranoia got worse. Chris would prowl round the house, checking to see if there were terrorists outside. He installed security locks and alarms in his bedroom, and woke us up every ten minutes during the night to check we were OK. He then started disappearing for days on end, coming home filthy, exhausted, hungry and ill.

The only way he could get any peace from what was going on in his head was if we took him for long drives in the dark on the motorway. My husband and I would do this for three or four hours at a time, taking turns. One day Chris told me that he’d had enough. He said he had no future and there was only one way out. He wanted to take his own life.

I called every organisation I could think of to try and get help for Chris, but only one understood exactly what we were going through, and most importantly what we could do about it.

The healthcare system is a real maze and people get pushed from pillar to post.

Without the help and advice we received from Rethink Mental Illness, Chris would never have found the right treatment let alone had it funded, or received the benefits he’s entitled to. Chris is now able to live independently. He even works as a volunteer befriender for others affected by mental illness.

Rethink Mental Illness are there to help families affected by severe mental illness. They want to make the system better too, but they rely on gifts in wills to fund much of their work. That’s why I’m remembering Rethink Mental Illness in my will. Because of those we’ve lost. Because of those we’ve saved. It’s down to us.

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Charlotte

Nine years after she passed away, the gaps that Charlotte fell through are still there.

My daughter Charlotte was born in 1989 and was quite a character from the start. She was very bright, and learned to walk and talk early. 

Charlotte started self-harming at 13. Her behaviour worsened and she overstepped every boundary I put in place. It wasn’t until she turned 18 that she was final­ly diagnosed with Borderline Personal­ity Disorder. 

I had never heard of it, but once I read about it, it explained Charlotte’s behaviours and why life was such an exhausting struggle for her.

People with BPD can have extraordinarily intense emo­tions. But apart from a spell in a private hospital and about 10 months with a private psychia­trist, Charlotte had no help.

The private care she received was a result of the benefits from my work, but because BPD is a lifetime mental illness, they would only allow a certain amount of funding. We were told that cognitive behavioural therapy would help her, but the lists were so long we couldn’t get an appointment.

Meanwhile, Charlotte’s self- harming was becoming more and more extreme. 
I asked my doctor if he could give her a mood stabiliser and for those last few weeks of her life she was able to talk to me more and explain her internal bat­tle. But sadly on the 22nd February 2009, she self-harmed and lost her life.

There are so many holes in the system and Charlotte fell through all of them. After her death, I felt so pas­sionate about the fact that there was so little help for young peo­ple in crisis. I wanted to do some­thing, and found Rethink Mental Illness.

Rethink Mental Illness sup­port and represent people who are very unwell, helping them to find a way through the health­care system and get the care they need and deserve. But much of this work relies on legacies, and sadly mental illness isn’t something most people think of when making their wills.

You don’t have to be well off to leave a legacy. Any gift, large or small, will make a difference. It’s also a way to keep the memo­ries of those we loved – and still love – alive.

I don’t want another young person to suffer like Charlotte. No brother to lose their sister, grandparent to lose their grand­child, or parent to lose their child like I did.

Charlotte was so much more than Borderline Personality Dis­order. She was a fun bright young woman who loved children, but was sadly blighted by this awful mental illness.

If we stand together, we can change the way mental illness is treated. And we can start now. Thank you.

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