How I became involved in the Review by Kathleen Taylor
I was asked to be part of the Children and Young Persons Advisory Group because of my lived experience as a parent carer and it is something that I very much want to contribute to. I also work with carers as part of my role at the Mental Welfare Commission but am personally on my third trip through CAMHS with my children so feel my lived experience is extensive and valuable.
It can be hard to accurately describe experiences from a caring perspective because, by default, the experiences are often not ours alone. We must protect those we care for, their confidentiality, privacy and need for autonomy and respect.
Most parents, however, will do anything for their children and to watch your child suffer must be one of the worst experiences we can have.
Being excluded from the process to try and help them can be intolerable and damaging.
In my experience confidentiality, while important, can unfortunately be used as a barrier to communication among children, professionals and families.
Assuming a family is caring and has the best interests of a child at heart is not the default position in mental health settings. Unfortunately, there is still a blame culture felt by many families who feel judged, patronised and dismissed.
For young people with ongoing mental health problems, including families from the outset, unless they are shown to be part of the problem, would have many advantages not least that staff could approach individuals with a spirit of openness rather than mistrust when discussing information sharing.
In this way, we can move towards preserving vital relationships within families to allow them to care for their child moving forward.
The legislation we are discussing provides safeguards for the minority of children who are detained but most young people who have serious mental health problems are in the community.
Parents have the lifelong responsibility for negotiating with organisations including mental health services, education, social services, DWP and employment agencies for their child and it makes no sense to exclude them in any way.
The suspicion and secrecy that can surround information sharing is at best unhelpful but can seriously damage family relationships
Appropriate help needs to be guaranteed for these young people, many of whom will have missed long periods of education, to move forward with life and maximise their potential.
Help must also be available for their families who may well be coping with many other challenges including jobs, unemployment and other children.
An absence of acute symptoms does not mean recovery and we owe it to these young people to help them forge a meaningful path through life. This support needs to be meaningful and must be carried on through transition and into adult services.
My experience has shown that this is sadly not the case.
My hope is that we can use this process to help improve the care we give to our young people with mental health problems and safeguard their rights to a future while supporting their families.