The long-term effects of unreliable, inconsistent support in CAMHS

07 May 2019

Mair Elliott writes about how unreliable and inconsistent support from CAMHS has had an impact on her.

The long-term effects of unreliable, inconsistent support in CAMHS

07 May 2019

Mair Elliott writes about how unreliable and inconsistent support from CAMHS has had an impact on her.

Mair Elliott, Cerebra the charity for families of children with brain conditions

Unreliable and inconsistent support from CAMHS

“When we discuss the high staff turnover, lack of reliable support, and other issues within CAMHS services we often think about the immediate distress that is caused to the young person in need of care and treatment. However, the ongoing effects can be just as distressing.

My experience of CAMHS, as with many other’s experiences, was of unreliability, numerous staff changes, lack of communication, and stop-start therapy. I’d invest my trust in a therapist only to have it broken when they departed at short notice. This happened over and over again. It was this continual loop of breaking my trust which has left me with some pretty serious insecurities.

Over the past couple of months, my therapist, whom I have been seeing for over a year, has had to take significant leave for various reasons outside both our control. Unexpectedly, it has triggered some deep insecurities within me. Yesterday she informed me that she’d have to take time off and I wouldn’t be able to see her for another 3 weeks. I am feeling incredibly vulnerable and upset over this. I don’t trust that she will come back, I don’t trust that I won’t be left stranded without support, I don’t trust that my trust will not be broken. Part of me feels that I can’t continue seeing her, that I should disengage because it hurts too much to have my trust broken over and over again. I know that this decision would leave me without any support, but right now that seems less painful. Another part of me is compelled to do something drastically self-destructive in order to prove to the CMHT that I really need support, that I’m not safe and can’t deal with this on my own. Unfortunately, my experiences have also taught me that the only way to get help is to do something drastically self-destructive.

I have very little point of reference for a stable, consistent therapeutic relationship, where I don’t need to continually prove I’m sick enough to be worthy of support. Therefore, it makes sense that I struggle to engage and trust in mental health professionals. My experience is that they cause me more pain, build my expectations and then let me down, and wait until the last minute to provide patchy support. Its almost as if I’m in an emotionally abusive relationship. Why should I invest my trust in professionals, when this is my previous experience?

I put my trust in a service to support me and help me get better, but instead I was left with the acute distress at the time and long-lasting issues which are having a great impact on my ability to engage in therapy now as an adult.

The most shocking thing to me is that had I not had these experiences of CAMHS I wouldn’t have these trust issues and insecurities. I grew up in a loving, stable, nurturing environment, this fear of trust, abandonment and neglect didn’t exist before CAMHS – it was CAMHS that caused them. How can it be that a health service can cause this long-term damage? I put my trust in a service to support me and help me get better, but instead I was left with the acute distress at the time and long-lasting issues which are having a great impact on my ability to engage in therapy now as an adult. I have always veered away from blaming anyone, but actually right now I’m pretty f*cked off. It is completely unacceptable for a service’s failings to have left me with such a deep-rooted fear of trust, abandonment and neglect. I had, and still have, enough difficulties to deal with without this on top.

For now, I’m going to have to get myself through the next 3 weeks somehow. I logically know that the reasons for my therapist’s absences are out of her control, so I will do what I can to negotiate with the urges to disengage or self-destruct. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about myself over the years, it’s that I have an ability to ‘get through’ things even if I’m metaphorically on my hands and knees and dragging myself along.

I’d be interested in knowing if this is a common experience of those who have accessed CAMHS? Is my experience unique? Have you experienced long term effects of poor care and treatment? “

You can read more of Mair’s posts in her blog. We would love to hear about your experiences of delays or inconsistent support from CAMHS. Please get in touch with [email protected].

8 thoughts on “The long-term effects of unreliable, inconsistent support in CAMHS”

  1. Hayley walker

    Horrendous lack of support over 11 years …most of them just seem more interested in family therapy than helping the young person … My son tried to end his life aged 15 … I still had a 3 day wait for an appointment … Constant staff changes . Lack of appropriate assessments … No one qualified to recognise or help us with PDA … I met on one occasion with the clinical manager who said I know more about PDA than he does … The service is an absolute shambles … But there is no alternative … So if you cant afford to go private we get stuck in this dam useless loop .. and so far sad to say adult services don’t seem much better

  2. I was diagnosed as having gad at 13. Then I was diagnosed with ibs for 8 years because the doctors thought it was in my head when I actually had Crohn’s disease. I question whether my gad was caused by being raised by a mentally ill mother which wasn’t picked up until I was an adult. I’m not a fan of cahms. I’ve had years and years of stress and little help

    1. Hi Lisa sorry to hear that you had a poor experience with CAHMS but thank you for sharing your story.

  3. My daughter was being seen by a clinician at camhs, when suddenly he went off sick! I didn’t even get a phone call to inform me of this! It took weeks of many phone calls trying to find out why she wasn’t being seen beforeigoundthis information out!! It’s been six months and still nobody has taken over is caseload!! In the meantime I am paying privately as my daughters mental health had got so bad! I called her gp, her reply was “I’m sorry only camhs can deal with this” terrible how children can be treated like this!!

  4. I have also had no support off calms for my older child who has asd,adhd,pda who now turned 16 so even less support, I am now awaiting my second appointment since 2019 for my 9 year old. who is suspected on the spectrum. now they just trying to fob me off with family therapy,

  5. In Glasgow the waiting time to to get an appointment for CAMHS is 2 years, pre covid. My son has been waiting 20 months now and I have been told unless he is suicidal or self harming there is nothing they can do. Utterly disgusting and unacceptable.

  6. I have had issues with CAMHS for the last 12 years. Firstly with my eldest child whom they wouldn’t support despite making suicide attempts and badly self-harming. Poor girl and ended up being in a psychiatric unit from 14 to 18 and has been left with more problems, mentally and physically than she had to start with and has had zero support since despite being diagnosed with BPD, ADD and PTSD. Then more recently with my middle child, who has ASD and ADHD. Having fought, along with our GP, the schools and eventually his YOT worker (as he ended up in trouble with the police) for 5 years they finally agreed to see him, then discharged him after 4 visits because he is difficult to engage even though he had disclosed some extremely worrying things! I need to add he isn’t medicated as we can’t get him seen by the paediatrician here (we moved up here 6 years ago) CAMHS are well aware of this as plenty of referrals have been done over the last 6 years. The last 7 months he’s been in a near constant state of psychosis, they finally agreed to see him again then discharged him after about 6 weeks as they didn’t feel he was getting enough out of it to warrant the appointment. May I also add that he has been assessed as needing to be hospitalised but there were no beds so they’ve just left him in the community with absolutely no support. I’ve written to my local MP for help, which was useless and I’m left not being able to help my son as I can’t afford to pay privately and he is now so over mental health professionals, that a child who was difficult to engage due to having ASD and ADHD is now pretty impossible to engage because he doesn’t trust any of them, understandably! My son has gone from a kid with above average intelligence who had huge potential to a very angry, hurt, confused and messed up 17 year old who is engaging in all sorts of destructive behaviours and being beaten up regularly, all because the paediatrician and CAMHS kept refusing to see him, the latter then after years, finally agreed to help him, just to let him down repeatedly and dump him in a far worse state than he has ever been. Our mental health services are beyond awful and so many people who need their support are being constantly let down and frankly dumped. It is not good enough at all and I don’t know what to do to make those in charge realise that all the money going into mental health is not being spent on services for patients, goodness knows where it goes but it is not where it needs to be going thats for sure! Appalling!!

  7. I stated seeing CAMHS at 12 I am currently 17. The second I stopped self harming and got put antidepressants at 15 they only did medication reviews (about one every 4-6 months) and stopped 1-1 sessions. I have been experiencing motor tics since I was 12 and vocal tics since 14/15, I meet the criteria for a diagnosis for a tic disorder but they kept blaming it on My gad (Genralised anxiety disorder) which can heighten but not cause tics. They told me I would “grow out of” my autism. They also told me they couldn’t support me with my ED (eating disorder) because I have autism, I also reported experiencing visual hallucinations which they again blamed on my gad. They also consistently uses outdated terms (which as medical professionals I should not have to correct them on) such as “Asperger’s” (an outdated term literally invented by nazis) I’m getting a new worker soon after my mum witnessed the “growing out of my autism” comment she reported my previous doctor and requested a new one. I have been showing symptoms of (p)DID over the last few years and I am as sure as I can be without a diagnosis that I have it but after 5 years of horrible care from CAMHS I don’t trust them enough to bring the subject up. The only thing they helped with is getting a autism diagnosis (which they sent me somewhere else to get) and referred me for CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) which only lasted a few week. To say Iv been with them since I was 12 they haven’t helped with a lot. I don’t trust “medical professionals” in the slightest.

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