WomenEd Blogs

This one is personal, In 2020 I pledge to amplify my voice….


by Clare Erasmus @cerasmusteach #PledgeForChange20

My son has been on the mental health disability register since he was 9 years old ; we only managed to get C.A.M.H.S intervention when he reached secondary school. He is now in his teens and despite a situation which is becoming more challenging we can only secure a monthly appointment with a C.A.M.H.S therapist. It feels like a drop in the ocean in terms of the clinical support my son really needs.

The truth is only 13.8% of England’s health budget goes on mental health. When I think of a mental health or a physical health disability and how, as a society, we should respond to ensure equity, I think of the Equality Act of 2010. 13.8% of England’s health budget on mental health clearly does not show the funding is fair and enabling all people, irrespective of their disability, to have equal opportunities in accessing and living life to the full. As a family, we are watching an academically high achieving, physically active young boy withdraw into his own world and become increasingly alienated from school and community life. I am living day in and day out with the frustrations of C.A.M.H.S waiting lists. If your child is struggling with their mental health in a mainstream school environment and they are not hospitalized then there is very little out there for families to help their children.

There is a complete void between what schools can offer for mild to moderate mental health challenges and what C.A.M.H.S can offer for severe mental health challenges. If you are somewhere inbetween, it honestly feels like a wasteland.

The help exists in a myriad of websites and books and then that is it. As I search for therapy groups for young people or mental health charities or schools with a therapeutic approach, who can physically connect with my son, they never seem to be happening in my area. It is like I am watching my child suffer from an illness which is ravaging his body and mind by the day and all I get is – “let's have another meeting in 4 weeks time” or “shall we make another referral?” or “I am applying for funds so that we can….” then 2 months. 3 months, 24 months I wait…….
I do my bit as a parent such as read up on mental health and the signs; train and become a mental health first aider; teach myself to listen without judgement; review my parenting skills and revisit and work on my relationship with my son but I also want to shout STOP, please can we have some clinical help. Please can we have a mental health expert also see him at least once a week. Please can someone with the right skills mentor him weekly. Please can we NOT just seek to medicate him but rather look at talking with him and engaging in CBT ? But I get shrugged off, deflected emails…yes, I know….it’s difficult… the waiting lists are so long……what can you do as a parent that is different – another parenting workshop? yes …we are trying….

If my son had lost a leg or an organ I can assure you I would not feel so helpless as the cogs of the wheels are in place for physical health support. But mental health remains the Cinderella of the N.H.S.

It was in January 2017 when I heard UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, say : Mental health problems are everyone’s problem. For no parent should feel helpless when watching their child suffer. No teacher should feel ill-equipped to deal with a troubled pupil. No teenager should have to leave their local area to seek treatment. No child should ever be left to feel like their life is not worth living.  It is now almost 2020 and I have a message for the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. Parents are feeling helpless watching their children suffer with mental health challenges
Teachers are feeling ill equipped with resources, training and time to deal with a ‘troubled’ pupil who clearly has mental health challenges. Our teenagers are facing a post code lottery when it comes to support. In some counties the support is having an impact. Unfortunately, in my area of Portsmouth – it’s sorely lacking.

My child has told me repeatedly he expects to be dead before 21 years of age. He does not feel like his life is worth living. As a parent it feels desperate with nights full of anguish as I try and get support for my son. It can feel very lonely.

My husband recently became very ill and contracted a rare 1 in a million disease, an auto-immune disease, and almost overnight lost both his kidneys. (I jest not – yip it did happen). I was amazed by the marvel of the N.H.S which saved his life. We were supported every step of the way and the N.H.S. clicked in to support his physical health. THANK YOU N.H.S.  The parallel story in my family, this time with mental health, is not so positive.

My 10%braver #WomenED #PledgeForChange20 is to continue to hold my ground against the current and not accept this situation as being OK.

  • To amplify my voice about this unacceptable void and the URGENT need for robust N.H.S. and related mental health community support to be set up so that young people with mental health challenges get the same kind of support as they would if it was a physical health challenge.
  • Ensure effective systems fall into place to support every family and child so we are not left in the wasteland of helplessness.
  • To carry on leading and campaigning for a compulsory designated mental health lead in every school
  • To help build a model for schools and communities which delivers impact when working with parents and their children.

I do all this so I can help save my son and thousands of other young people and give him and others an opportunity of living life to the full.

I urge all to join me in ensuring the Government meets its targets and its pledges in making mental health as important as physical health and bring mental health care in line with physical health.

I’m a teacher and a Head of Faculty who is also trying to do my bit in a school by being the designated mental health lead . Every day I go to work thinking what can I do to change this? Hence I wrote a book and am relentless in helping set up a pre-preemptive and proactive mental health and wellbeing template for other schools to follow.

Clare E 2

Finally, my eternal gratitude goes to my current head teacher, @chrisedwardsuk, for opening doors in helping me set up this model and template for other schools to follow and to my #WomenEd community for constantly pushing me to be 10%braver and always supporting me from behind. #WomenEd have helped me define my value system; the networking and coaching I have found from this community has been invaluable in helping me find the Malala and Greta in myself to lead from within and then giving me platforms to be heard. By simply sharing this blog you can help me deliver my pledge. You can help my voice be heard. You can help me campaign for a future which will be able to help my son and millions of other families and young people living with mental health challenges.  Thank you. 

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Wednesday, 07 December 2022

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