“Having a child with a mental illness from a young age can be very isolating. We are sharing our story to stamp out the stigma of mental health issues and to help as many people as possible along the way.”
Anne and her husband Scott abseiled down the Golden Jubilee Wing of King’s College Hospital to raise money for South London and Maudsley (SLaM). Their 10-year-old son Ethan has been under the care of Acorn Lodge, an inpatient facility for children aged 4-12 who have a wide range of severe emotional or behavioural disorders. Anne tells us her son’s story, and why she wishes to give back for the ‘amazing treatment’ Ethan has received.
Ethan became very unwell in August 2013 following a full year when he didn’t want to attend school. There were a number of stressors in the family, including his little brother Jack being unwell when he was born and the loss of both his beloved dog and his nanny.
By September he said he would never return to school. Following a traumatic incident in a local hospital we entered a period where he did not leave the house for five months. He couldn’t even really function with basic tasks like washing. This was a complete shock for us as a family, as until then he had been a confident and ‘happy’ kid.
In the two years that followed he started to improve a little, although he did not engage with any of the medics who visited the house on a regular basis. By mid-2015 he was able to leave the house once a week, but we were extremely worried that he had now been out of education for over two years, with zero provision in the home.
Hope is offered
In November 2015, having recently moved to Abu Dhabi, we met with Dr Khaled Kadry from the Maudsley Hospital Clinic there. He visited our home and told us about Acorn Lodge in Bethlem Royal Hospital, which is an inpatient facility for children with a school in the grounds.
By December Ethan’s condition had deteriorated; he was confined to his bedroom by his crippling anxiety. He could not sleep, perhaps only getting three hours rest during daylight hours. He said he wanted to die.
He was admitted to Acorn Lodge on 4 February 2016. We were worried about the admission, especially as it was difficult to get Ethan to leave the house, and we felt guilty about admitting our son to a psychiatric hospital in another country without his knowledge. The admission went better than expected and Ethan even walked into the building to have a look.
After that everything improved quickly and Ethan was attending the school within his first week. This was pretty miraculous to us. He’s now been diagnosed with mixed anxiety disorder on a background of atypical autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Acorn Lodge has helped us with a diagnosis which is allowing us to address Ethan’s difficulties. We tried for so long to find out why his behaviour had changed, but nobody was able to offer an answer until now.
I travelled to London from Abu Dhabi every weekend to visit Ethan. It’s been an emotional journey but we are delighted with his remarkable progress. He was discharged at the beginning of May, and we feel indebted to the staff at Acorn Lodge for giving him the skills and courage to get his life back.
They are all highly professional and made us feel at ease straight away during a very difficult time in our lives. I could make a special mention for Carmel Fraser, Dr Marinos and Ethan’s nurse Kwaiku – but all the staff are great.
Giving back and stamping out stigma
We raised funds to give something back. In particular, Ethan thinks the children on the ward would like extra PlayStation games, comics and movies.
Having a child with a mental illness from a young age can be very isolating. We are sharing our story to stamp out the stigma of mental health issues and to help as many people as possible along the way.
SLaM’s invaluable services for both children and adults benefit hugely from extra support like this. If you’d like to help those like Ethan have the best possible experience, get involved today, or make a donation!