Mother said she did not want her son to become another suicide statistic before his death
PUBLISHED: 08:24 10 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:42 10 October 2018
Mother of a young man who took his own life calls for more parental support
The mother of a young Lowestoft man who took his own life has welcomed the launch of an online resource for parents and carers to mark World Mental Health Day.
The #HandsUp4HealthyMinds toolkit by Mental Health First Aid England offers advice on how to spot signs of poor mental health in young people and how to keep communication channels open.
Daniel Willgoss was only 25-years-old when he took his own life three months ago after having severe depression and experiencing daily suicidal thoughts.
At the age of three he was referred to the Child and Adolescenet Mental Health Service and by the age of seven-hcould only go to school part-ime because of his incredible anxiety.
At that time, Daniel did not qualify to receive any therapeutic support because of his autism diagnosis.
In memory of her son’s life, Sue Willgoss has set up #LiftLoudForDanny charity to campaign for an improvement in mental health services across the region.
Mrs Willgoss welcomed further resources for parents but warned that other young people were at risk of further self harm and suicide attempts because they were failing to get therapeutic support.
Her son was co-manager of Mammoth Power Gym in Lowestoft and had been selected to be part of the England powerlifting team in last year’s Four Nations competition. He had many friends in the town.
But Mrs Willgoss had a constant fight on her handsto get the right support for Daniel and even in 2016 wrote to Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust saying that she feared her son would become yet another suicide statistic.
As a committee member of a National Autistic Society branch, Mrs Willgoss regularly supports families dealing with special educational needs, who are often frustrated by referral delays while their children fall further into crisis.
She said: “The threshold is so high for a child or young person to get into CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services). There needs to be a system lower level support is given at a much earlier stage. I’ve got families whose child is saying they want to die and they are not getting access to a service.
“I truly believe that if Daniel had been given the consistent and appropriate support which he needed he would still be alive today. I don’t want any other parents to have to experience the heartbreak that myself and my family and his friends have been through because of this experience.”
In Suffolk, mother of three, Bec Jasper, 45, set up Parents and Carers Together (PACT) four years ago after talking to parents who were struggling with where to turn to when their child was experiencing mental health issues.
PACT has around 100 members and branches across Suffolk including Bury St Edmunds, Lowestoft, Ipswich and Stowmarket as well as provide online support for a further 300 people.
Bec said: “#HandsUp4HealthyMinds toolkit is really helpful about how to talk to a young person about their mental health. This advice is really important in terms of whether the chat ends up being positive and supportive (or not) but so much more support for parents and young people is needed.
“We are hearing stories daily from parents being turned away or waiting months for access to services and their child is in crisis – they don’t know where to go next.
“Unless the child is in crisis and having suicidal thoughts it is very difficult to access professional services unless they pay privately and it is hit and miss. Without knowledge information and support parents feel isolated and judged, sometimes by school staff and professionals and other parents andyou are left with no guide or signposting as to where to go for help.“
Mrs Willgoss hopes by campaigning she can help others and keep the memory of Daniel’s passion for life alive. “He put on a brave front but he was also so knowledgeable about the things he was passionate about. He loved the gym and in the gym he was a different person. He was just very dedicated and a very special person.” To donate to #Liftloudfordanny please go to www.gofundme.com/liftloudfordanny
A spokesman for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups, said:
“There is a lot of good work happening across east and west Suffolk to support the emotional wellbeing of our children and young people and their families.
“Early intervention is important so that the right help can be accessed as quickly as possible. Earlier this year the CCGs and Suffolk County Council launched the Emotional Wellbeing Hub, which anyone with a concern about the wellbeing of a young person can contact by ‘phone or email. The hub is one of the first of its kind in the country. Specially-trained practitioners offer support, guidance and referrals to other services where appropriate. We are pleased the hub is has having such a positive impact, with around 700 referrals being made each month.
“Both CCGs are committed to further improving mental health outcomes for all ages. To achieve this we have been working closely with our partners at Healthwatch Suffolk, Suffolk Family Carers, Suffolk User Forum and Suffolk Parent Carer Network to gather feedback on how services could be transformed to deliver a new model of mental health services. Over the coming months we will be working on our plans for change.
“Spending on mental health by both CCGs has increased from £93m in 2014/15 to £103m in 2016/17, £111m in 2017/18 and £115m in 2018/19.
“Anyone with a concern about the emotional wellbeing of a young person can contact the hub Monday – Friday 8.00 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. on 0345 600 2090 or by emailing email@example.com”
Stuart Richardson, Chief Operating Officer, NSFT, said:
“Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) is just one of many providers of mental health services for children and young people.
As a specialist mental health trust, NSFT’s focus is on children and young people with moderate to severe mental health difficulties. For those with less severe issues, there are many other providers of services, including GPs, school nurses, children’s centre, health visitors and third sector organisations, such as the Mancroft Advice Project (MAP), Childline and Point-1.”
“NSFT works collaboratively with our commissioners and other partner organisations, along with children, young people and families, to continually improve Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) – in particular, access to our services.”
“We have improved accessed by increasing the flexibility of where and when we can see young people and families. For example, we go into schools and colleges and offer access during the evenings and at weekends, which many young people prefer and find more convenient.”
“If a young person has needs which can be better and more appropriately met by another service, we will refer them on, including to our own Wellbeing services which can support children and young people with lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression.”
Youth mental health first aider Natasha Devon MBE and author of A Beginners Guide to Being Mental offers her tips.
1. Choose the right environment
The right setting is important and will differ depending on the personality of the young person. Some find a quiet, calm space with lots of eye contact essential to connect during conversation, others find it too intense. There’s a lot of evidence to show ‘shoulder to shoulder’ communication - doing something like walking or driving alongside talking - can encourage people to open up.
2. Gauge the amount of knowledge in the room
Whilst young people tend to have a vast breadth of knowledge on mental health, they can lack depth of understanding – and that’s where you can come in.
3. Don’t ‘freak out’!
I hear all the time from the young people I work with ‘I can’t tell my Mum/Dad, they’ll freak out’. Your first job is to assuage that fear. When a young person is opening up to you, show them in your language and tone that you are genuinely interested, aren’t judging them and will remain calm. 4. Ask open questions
Words, particularly when they relate to mental health, can be subject to a huge amount of interpretation. Don’t assume the way they use the word ‘anxious’ is the same as how you would. As questions such as ‘what does that feel like?’, ‘how long have you felt like this?’ and ‘do you have any idea why’?
5. Don’t try to ‘solve’ it
You could be the most singularly gifted psychotherapist the world has ever seen and you still wouldn’t be able to practice on your friends and family. Research has shown that making a person feel understood and valued raises their self-esteem, which in turn improves their brain chemistry. Just by having the conversation, you have helped.
6. Learn together
It’s okay if you’re not an expert on mental health. In fact, if there are issues affecting your loved ones you wish you knew more about, it’s a great opportunity for you to go on a learning curve together.