27th October 2016

“If my children were ever taken off me, I wouldn’t survive the day,” was my sister’s emotive, yet understandable, comment when we were discussing the impact losing your children could have on your mental health. It made me think of a woman I had worked with, Emily.

Emily had her son taken off her after she had attempted to kill herself. The boy, Jacob, was pre-school, and the decision by social services was made in her best interests. Emily had been in an abusive relationship and was struggling to cope. She had serious mental health problems as well as a history of childhood abuse, so coping was not something she was good at. She had always refused to engage with mental health services for fear that it would result in Jacob being taken away. The tragedy is that engaging with services was probably the only thing that would have kept their family together.

After further attempts to take her own life, Emily was detained under the Mental Health Act and admitted to the mental health ward where I worked. At this point, Jacob had been taken away by social services. Emily was told Jacob would be adopted; she could have phone contact until then and one final visit to say goodbye.

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