NI mental health system 'failing children'

By Jayne McCormack
Talkback, BBC Radio Ulster

image captionThe Beechcroft unit is Northern Ireland's only inpatient facility to treat children with mental health problems

A County Down woman, who fears she will lose her daughter to suicide, has said she believes young people with mental health problems in Northern Ireland are being failed.

Collette's 16-year-old daughter, Chloe, has made four attempts on her life since last September.

"I wake up and think one of these days I'm going to have to bury my daughter," she told BBC Talkback.

The Belfast Trust has said it does not comment on individual cases.

Collette, who did not want to use her surname, said Chloe had always been an outgoing child, but went into a "dark zone" last summer.

'Only way out'

"She stopped eating, she wasn't sleeping," she said.

"She began saying: 'I can't see the light, I don't want to be here and the only way out is for me to kill myself.'"

After being assessed by a GP, Chloe was sent into the Beechcroft unit in south Belfast for treatment.

Beechcroft is Northern Ireland's only inpatient facility to treat children with mental health problems.

Chloe's mother, however, said although she was initially offered support and therapies aimed at improving her health, Chloe believed staff were not listening to her.

"She convinced staff that she was okay to come home, but then she did the same thing," Collette said.

"She told me the only reason she came home was to kill herself."

'Over and over'

Chloe has now been in and out of Beechcroft four times since her initial stay in the unit last September.

Her mother says the in-and-out cycle has left her and Chloe's siblings feeling like they are "walking on eggshells".

"I don't know if I'm going to wake up in the morning and be told my daughter isn't here anymore," she said.

Where to get help

"Mental health doesn't start at 18. Talking is great but there are no proper strategies in place to make Chloe better.

"It's the same trend over and over. The same medication and therapies every time - nothing is improving."

'Speaking out'

The Belfast Trust said it did not comment on individual cases and treats all complaints about the standard of its care "with the utmost seriousness".

"We encourage anyone with complaints about our services to make us aware through our complaints department where a full and thorough review can be conducted," the statement added.

Collette said she wonders how many other children there are in the system, struggling in the same way as her daughter.

"There are bound to be other mums out there that need the assistance and help but are afraid to speak out.

"I'm speaking out because I don't want to wake up tomorrow and my daughter not be here."

This interview will be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme at 12:00 GMT on Tuesday, 20 March and will be available afterwards on the BBC iPlayer radio app.

More on this story