Maisie is a 13- year-old girl who has autism. She self harms and because of this she is currently under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act. She has been placed into hospital, 60 miles away from her family home.
SANE, the national mental health charity, the National Autistic Society (NAS) and Hull and East Yorkshire MIND, are all backing the Get Maisie Home campaign, which was launched in January 2015 by mother Sally Burke.
The aim of this campaign is to reinstate 24/7 care for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in Hull and raise awareness of how the closures of mental health units is impacting on our nation’s children.
Maisie, Sally’s daughter, is one of the many children who is affected. When Maisie was just twelve years old, following the death of her father, she was found self harming and attempting to take her own life. However, due to the closure of Hull’s children’s mental health residential facility ‘West End’, she was forced to travel to a unit in Stafford, 120 miles away from home. After a month there and only after intervention from MP Alan Johnson, a place was found a bit closer in Sheffield, but this was still 60 miles away from home. During her stay in this unit, she was diagnosed with autism and once her health had improved, Maisie was discharged home at the beginning of April 2014.
The next few months were a little more stable, but despite receiving support from the local CAMHS team and school; Maisie struggled to reintegrate back into home, family, school and community life.
Sadly, towards the end of November, Maisie started showing signs of distress both at school and home. Without 24/7 CAMHS support and the appropriate intervention, this escalated to crisis once again with an attempted overdose. It took 5 long, self-harming days to find an available bed, which again was in Sheffield and she was admitted there on the 3rd December. She stayed there just over four months, but had to be transferred to a more secure unit in Bury, Lancashire on 11th April 2015. This was due to Maisie escaping on four separate occasions, trying to get herself home.
Being so far away from home is damaging Maisie’s recovery and it is an extremely difficult time for her family – financially as well as emotionally. Each trip is costly and limits the times that Sally can visit. It also makes it extremely challenging for other family members and friends to visit too, when they have to plan such long hours travelling there and back, when all they want to do is spend their time seeing Maisie. On a couple of occasions, visits have had to be cancelled last minute due to road works, stand still traffic and bad weather conditions. Being far from home causes additional emotional distress for the child and everyone else.
“My child is ill and as her Mum I would expect to see her, cuddle her and reassure her every day,” says Sally. “As her Mum I need to be there when she needs me. As her Mum I should be able to hold her hand through her recovery and not being able to do so is heartbreaking. Knowing my little girl is so far away, alone and homesick is harrowing. I’m exhausted, physically and mentally, and I feel helpless.”