Content warning: self harm, mental ill health, suicide
I was introduced to Ollie*, aged 14, by the school’s attendance officer. His Mum had just phoned the school to tell us that Ollie had disappeared the previous night, arriving home late and saying he wanted to end his own life. Having spoken to the police the night before, Mum was taking him to see his GP that morning.
When I spoke to her, Mum told me how worried she was. She was struggling to manage Ollie’s behaviour and was scared he could seriously hurt himself or his 7 year old sister, Maddie. Even though the GP had referred Ollie to the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), and they’d been visited by an Early Intervention Worker and an Outreach Worker, Mum was still concerned that Ollie was on track to leave school with no qualifications, and was unsure where to go for help.
With permission from Ollie and his Mum, I set about contacting all of the professionals involved, to make sure we had a clear strategy in place to support Ollie and his family.
We agreed that I would meet with Ollie regularly while we waited for an appointment with CAMHS. Together, we worked to monitor and manage his mood, and set up the support he needed in school. Through his head of year, we made sure that his teachers knew he was struggling, and that he could leave his lessons to come and see me whenever necessary. Ollie and I also met with some of his teachers to arrange the academic support he needed, and together we made an appointment with the school’s careers officer, and applied for a college place.
About a month later, I noticed Ollie’s mood and behaviour declining. He was increasingly physically aggressive at home, getting into arguments at school, and going missing – when I spoke to him, he told me he was once again experiencing suicidal thoughts. I immediately discussed my worries with my manager at School-Home Support, and the school’s safeguarding team.
I arranged for Ollie to see the school counsellor, while I chased his referral to CAMHS. An emergency referral to CAMHS was made that weekend, when Ollie was treated in hospital after self-harming.
When he came back to school his classmates were preparing to sit their mock exams, but Ollie was refusing to attend lessons and was argumentative and violent with his teachers. When I spoke to him, he told me how angry he was feeling and that he still wanted to end his own life. I immediately arranged a meeting with his Outreach Worker, contacted CAMHS, who offered Ollie an earlier appointment, and spoke with Mum about minimising risks, for example by keeping knives locked away and making sure she had the number for the crisis line.
I went with Ollie to meet his Outreach Worker. On the day, he told me that he’d come in to school with a large knife, which he allowed me to take and put in a safe place. When I asked Ollie what he planned to do with the knife, he explained that he thought he might have used it on himself or others. I told him that I would need to tell the headteacher, and his Mum – once I had done this, I was able to sit with Ollie, keep him calm, and explain what might happen next as we waited for the police.
In the meantime, I’ve been working hard to ensure that Ollie gets the support he needs. I have completed a multi-agency referral form, and am currently setting up a meeting with other professionals to decide on a strategy. Ollie cannot come back to this school full-time, but alternative arrangements have been made, and I am still acting as his link with school – currently, I’m making arrangements to make sure he can still sit his GCSEs this summer.
Supporting Ollie hasn’t always been plain sailing, and our work together isn’t done yet, but things are getting better.
Thanks to my interventions, gaps in Ollie’s support plan were identified and fixed. I was able to keep all the different professionals up-to-date, and facilitate the communication which was needed to get help. Ollie is now accessing the specialist mental health support he needs, and Mum is supported by a social worker.
I’ve also worked hard to make sure that, despite everything else going on, Ollie has the best possible chance of accessing education. He has a placement at another school, but when the time comes, he will be able to come back to us to sit the exams for the same GCSEs he’s been working towards for the past 2 years.
Ultimately, the relationship we formed meant Ollie felt able to confide in me, and as a result he got the support he needed. This support has already made a life-changing, if not life-saving, difference, and I am hopeful that despite his difficulties Ollie can go on to reach his potential.
*Names have been changed