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  • Dorothy

Who decides where young people should be kept?

Why IS Matthew Garnett in a psychiatric intensive care unit? The 15-year-old teenager has been locked away since September last year.

Matthew has been sectioned and is being held at an NHS PICU 100s of miles from his home making it difficult for his parents to visit.

It happened because Matthew was scheduled to have a formal assessment at his home with his parents. To do this he had to be taken out of his school early. Matthew loves school and being taken out early upset him.

To make matters worse the assessment was running late. Matthew became agitated as many other people with autism would, he lashed out and hit his dad. The police were called and Matthew was sectioned.

Like most people who hear of his case, Matthew cannot understand why he is being held like he is and thinks he is in prison. Since he was incarcerated, Matthew who has autism and an IQ of 55 has self-harmed. To stop him causing any damage to himself he has plaster casts on his arm. He hates that so rips them off causing himself further harm. It’s a downward spiral that is out of control. His parents, Robin and Isabelle are at their wits end and at real risk of suffering mental breakdowns themselves as every attempt to have him assessed and treated fails.

How Matthew has ended up where he is, brings sharp focus how we treat and support vulnerable people and who is responsible.

Matthew has so far been held for six months and no date has yet been formally set for that assessment. When he is assessed and a course of treatment offered what then for Matthew and his family?

Matthew clearly needs assessing urgently so he can have access to the best support to help him develop. His parents admit there are insufficient resources for young people of his age in the NHS which has so far failed and continues to fail Matthew and others like him.

Matthew also needs a clear pathway that will set him on a road to improve his life. Given that one incident lead to him being sectioned and then sent miles from home can we be confident that he will be offered the best option for him or even any option. Present evidence suggests that he will remain where he is unless or until someone with more power steps in and takes action. His parents’ campaign for action should be supported until something happens.

Having enjoyed his school and responded to being there then Matthew would clearly benefit from being able to live in a community where he could get to know people and build relationships such as those set up by ubu. Supported by the right professional help I am sure that Matthew would be able to grow as a person and achieve more independence as his confidence grew. Being kept inside a PICU is not the best place and was never going to be the right place.

The government loves to tell us that it is investing multi billions in funding better care for young people with mental health problems. If this is an example of it, then they are just throwing good money after bad.

Intensive care units are an outmoded way of care for anyone and the government has already missed numerous deadlines to close them. That should now be a priority and the money spent keeping them open diverted to targeted proven support that provides real improvements for those most at risk in society, only then will we have any kind of parity between mental and physical health in the UK.

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