A distraught Sligo mother has told how her nine-year-old son tried to kill her, himself and “anyone he could”.Fiona Gallagher, painfully recalled how her son Finley, who has autism, would enter a vicious cycle of self-harm after realising he had hurt his mum.
She is among the thousands of people expected to take to the streets of Ireland next week to hit out at the HSE’s waiting lists and the lack of services and care available to children with special needs.In Sligo the Our Voice for Their Future march will take place on Monday at 10.00am starting outside of Autism Services on Mail Coach Road and ending at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) office located in Nazareth House, Churchill.
Fiona is one of the organisers of the march along with Michelle Fletcher, Shelly Fletcher, Jade Donlon, Tanya Fletcher and Yvonne Rainey.
The single mum told The Sun
newspaper “Finley’s condition hit crisis point when he was nine, he became depressed and a cocktail of medication he was on was sending him crazy.
“He tried to kill himself at any chance he got and I couldn’t take my eyes off him, then he would try to kill me and anyone else around him.
“It got to the stage where I had to sleep in my clothes and runners in case I had to make a run for it in the middle of the night — because I didn’t know what he was going to do next.
“I’ve had to stop him jumping out the window, opening the car door as we were driving, strangling himself with the seat-belt and everything you can imagine.
“He would get knives and try to cut himself and was just constantly beating me and beating me.”
'Little or No Help'
Fiona also told how Finley, now 12, would despair after he realised he had hurt his mum in one of his vicious outbursts. She added she got “little or no help” from services in Ireland.
She said: “His heart would be broken when he came around and realised what he’d done to me. He would just black out and not know what he did. One of the worst things was the lack of help from the Child and Mental Health Service.“When I told them Finley was ripping his hair out and scratching skin off his arms trying to self-harm, they told me to give him camomile tea and cut his nails. I was gobsmacked.”
Finley has started doing better following private treatment.
Fiona added: “Thankfully, we were able to get Finley some help ourselves in a residential service centre in Navan called Three Steps. The care he got here was absolutely fantastic and Finley’s a completely new boy now and is so much happier.”
'Aren’t a High Priority'
Shelly Fletcher said she and her sister Tanya live in a constant battle as they learn to cope with being told how both their children “aren’t a high priority” from the HSE.
She said: “I have a six-year-old daughter with autism whose speech is very bad.“In Sligo alone there are 348 children sitting on CAMHS waiting lists, but we’ve been told that due to staff shortages only priority patients can be seen to.
“And only 87 vulnerable children were deemed to be high priority, which is absolutely outrageous.
“Tanya, who is in a more difficult situation than me, was told her nine-year-old son Dylan had to be removed from the waiting list because he wasn’t high priority. Dylan pulls his hair and scratches his skin off his arms, how can he not be deemed a priority?”
The Enough Is Enough Campaign
is a national protest regarding the lack of Mental Health Services, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists respite services, etc. available for children across the entire country.
Speaking to Sligo Today,
spokesperson Yvonne Rainy said, "One of the main purposes of our protest is due to the lack of mental health services available for children and adolescents in the North-West Region. In fact, over the past two weeks the telephone lines in the CAMH’s department has been turned over to a voicemail service and there is nobody returning any of the calls placed by parents/guardians.
"The campaign is about all different types of disabilities including but not inclusive of Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Intellectual Disabilities, Physical Disabilities and Neurological Disabilities to name but a few.
"Our Voice for Their Future
has decided to take park in this campaign which will be on Monday 3rd of April. The reason that this is the date chosen for the national protest is because that is the day after World Autism Awareness Day and we felt that it would be highly publicised on that week rather than any other.
"We recently had a meeting with the HSE to pass on the many concerns that have been raised by parents/guardians over the last number of months. We are awaiting on a follow up date to receive answers to our questions.
"The march is being organized by a group of parents/guardians, all of whom are primary caregivers of children needing Early Intervention, Assessments, School Age and CAMH’s services, many of which have been waiting on these services for a number of years to no avail", concluded Ms Rainey.
The organisers has asked for Sligo people to support their cause and attend the march at 10.00am starting outside of Autism Services on Mail Coach Road and walk with them, even part of the way, to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) office at Nazareth House.