Mum shares emotional story of late son's mental health struggle in new book

Caroline Aldridge with her book He Died Waiting about her son Tim. Picture: DENISE

Caroline Aldridge with her book He Died Waiting about her son Tim. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

A mother whose son died while fighting mental health troubles has told his heartbreaking story in the hope of ushering change in the way people in his position are seen treated.

Caroline Aldridge's son Tim died in 2014 at the age of just 30, having spent half of his life living with complex mental health difficulties.

Mrs Aldridge, a mental health professional at the time, was heartbroken by the loss of her son, who she described as "funny, loving and incredibly kind".

Now, seven years after his death, she has poured her heart out in the form of a book telling the story of his fight, the care he received and her journey grieving the loss of her son.

Titled 'He Died Waiting', the book describes Tim's difficulties in navigating mental health services, which she says often saw him faced with long delays for appointments and lacking in the support that could have saved his life.

She said: "In a way, Tim spent his life waiting, which is how I chose the book's name. After he died, it probably wasn't for another two-and-a-half years that I was actually able to grieve, because of everything that happened afterwards.

"I feel like at the time I was perhaps whispering - now is my time to shout."

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For Mrs Aldridge, writing the book began as a way for her to rebuild her faculties following a brain injury, but evolved into something much more significant and cathartic. 

And she hopes that now it is complete, it can almost become a teaching tool to help shape the way care is provided for people in the same position as Tim was, as well as people's attitudes towards those fighting mental health battles.

The book's cover is emblazoned with the powerful image of a quilt she made with 139 hearts on it - one for each person who died in Norfolk and Suffolk while receiving mental health treatment in the same year as Tim.

Caroline Aldridge's book He Died Waiting about her son Tim. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Caroline Aldridge's book He Died Waiting about her son Tim. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

She said: "Tim's life was spent waiting - he was never the right kind of ill to receive the care and support he needed - and there are still so many Tims out there.

"I think he needed services that would reach out to him and make him feel safe - I never thought he had the wraparound care he needed.

"Since he died, I had an army of people coming to me with similar experiences so in the end I thought 'I've got to do something'."

The 59-year-old added that she is keen to share her experiences with mental health trusts, including the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, in the hope that it may help influence the future care people receive.

Caroline Aldridge, 59, with her book He Died Waiting about her son Tim. Picture: DENISE

Caroline Aldridge, 59, with her book He Died Waiting about her son Tim. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

She said: "I do think there is so much that can be learned from every time somebody dies - it is just having that willingness to learn.

"We all need to think more about how we can help each other, not just professionals, but everybody."

An inquest into his death held in February 2015 was unable to ascertain the cause of his death, but judged it to have been accidental.

She said: "We will never know how he died, he was just found dead at his home [in Norwich], but I know he had been incredibly unwell. He had not been eating and sleeping properly.

"It was beyond awful, no parent ever wants to outlive their child - it's every parent's worst fear. Tim used to tell me I was the best, most beautiful mother in the world and I am sure he would be really proud of me for telling his story.

"I can not help him any more, but hopefully I am doing something that will help all the other Tims out there. So many people have their own Tims but do not have the confidence to stand up and talk about it.

"My hope is that people read our experience and really think about it in a meaningful way."

He Died Waiting by Caroline Aldridge is available to order from her website, learningsocialworker.com