In a world without stigma, the last four years of my family’s lives would have been very different.
In late 2011 we had lost our family business which was tough but we quickly began the process of rebuilding our lives, my wife Jm found employment whilst I worked from home. Jm was previously diagnosed with depression and anxiety after suffering the loss of her mother to cancer, shortly followed by the loss of her father. A family member had begun using social media to vilify Jm, it eventually led to him making vile threats to her, and attacking her illness. We later found out that this “man” had also contacted our youngest daughter Mh, posing as our elder daughter using her social media accounts. A year and a half of abuse had taken its toll on them both.
We eventually lost our home in July 2013, moved into rented accommodation and tried to put all this behind us and start afresh. I started a new job, Jm was seeking work, Mg had just started high school, all this happened in two short stressful weeks, it was also a chance that we intended to grab with both hands.
Mh seemed to be focussing on her new school mates, adolescence seemed to be starting. Healthy foods, keeping fit, sports, she seemed to be enjoying her new life, little did we know that it was the onset of anorexia nervosa. The social media bullying started again, the police could not stop it, lies and mistruths tore through our family. The family troubles hit Jm really hard; the way her mental health was attacked was brutal. He was relentless in spreading his vile words.
Nothing could ever have prepared me for the next few months, the whole saga blew up again, Jm’s health deteriorated rapidly due to the abuse, Mg was no longer the bubbly and confident child of before, I too was feeling the stress. Jm eventually voluntarily sectioned, her world had fell apart, our Doctors had not been helpful (basically translated to “get over it“). The mental health team took a dim view of us, as opposed to listening what the problems were; they told us what they thought they were, I was excluded from any input into Jm’s care. The things I witnessed in the hospital were shocking, no real treatment, just sedation whilst staff happily strolled around using social media on their phones. I complained about a couple of issues, this only made matters worse. After two weeks Jm came out of there feeling worse.
Mh wasn’t eating very well, we took her to the doctors a few times, they just dismissed our concerns, the attention seemed to be focussed on Jmr and I, it was wrong, our daughter was not well. We could see Mg’s health declining, to add to the problems, the social media abuse was still happening, the police were clearly tired of me calling them, I was frustrated that they could not put a stop to it all; I seemed to be disagreeing with everyone.
We appeared to have been “found guilty“ of causing all this, my relationship with MH services had declined, I was frustrated with the police, our daughter’s health was being dismissed as a “passing phase”, life was extremely difficult, social services had also been informed. Jm re-visited MH services, she was prescribed even more medication, daily home care monitoring for the medication was promised, that never happened.
The tablets had a terrible effect on Jm, she appeared drunk, again I was regularly calling the doctors and MH services for advice, I was being met with a new response, “call the police”. Social services became involved at this point, they told me to call the police or there was a likelihood that Mg would be taken into care. I was in a world of confusion, Jm was ill, not a criminal, Mg was really unwell, she needed her parents more than ever, she needed medical help. I made that fateful call to the Police after reassurances that it would actually help to get treatment for Jm; I informed the police control of the situation and the effect of the medication. Two male officers attended, “she’s just pissed mate”, despite me showing the medication, Jm was arrested, handcuffed and spent 14 hours in a vomit filled cell. No Doctor was called, her meds refused, bruises to arms and body, and a criminal record for being mentally ill.
Our new found “reputation” followed us wherever we went, the doctors were still dismissive of Mg’s weight loss, we eventually went to A&E, Mg was weak and dehydrated, her heart beat erratic, blood pressure dangerously low and still the focus turned to Jm and I, this pattern repeated far too many times. After over 4 months of trying, Mg was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, she was admitted to hospital but continued to deteriorate. The relationship with the staff was varied, some were truly amazing, others were totally aloof, the consultant had admitted to us that medical staff had no training with eating disorders, the apathy shown by some was appalling, whatever the illness, our child was seriously ill. Eventually Mh stabilized then fought through recovery, gaining release from hospital after 5 weeks. We had regular appointments with the ED team who by now had actually realized their mistaken judgement of us, social services had acknowledged our dedication to our child, the police have attempted to put a stop to the bullying. Jm & Mh both fought hard through recovery, they inspired each other.
Mh relapsed 7 months ago, that same man played his part in her demise; this time around the problems are different, stigma weighs heavily on Mh’s shoulders due to the apathy shown with eating disorders. There is still a long way to go in Mh’s recovery, we will be there for every step, we will do all we can to help her beat this illness and free her young mind from the burden of stigma.

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self-edge-removed-ls-p-silouehette-jpegI am a married father who has lived alongside mental illness all my life. As a child I witnessed (and occasionally suffered) domestic violence. My mother suffered with depression, my father was an alcoholic. I suffered / fought bullying due to my small size from about the age of mine.
I am passionate about mental health, eating disorders, bullying, animal cruelty and all stigma. I currently volunteer as a Samaritans listener amongst other things, I am seriously considering returning to college to study psychology and hypnotherapy.

James can be found on his blog and Twitter

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