A TEENAGE abuse victim says young people like her are being “badly let down” by children’s mental health services in Dorset.

Lauren – her name has been changed to protect her identity – was referred to Children and Adolescent Mental Services (CAMHS) last year after disclosing she had been abused by her stepfather.

He was sentenced to nine years in prison at Bournemouth Crown Court in December.

The 15-year-old, who has repeatedly self-harmed and has tried to take her own life, said after disclosing she thought she would finally receive the support she needed.

But despite her family pleading for professional help, she had to wait eight weeks to speak to a counsellor from CAMHS, which is funded and managed by Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust.

Other children have to wait even longer to be seen, sometimes several months.

The girl has spoken out at the beginning of a week in which the Daily Echo looks at shortcomings in mental health services.

Mike Kelly, associate director of CAMHS, has publicly apologised for “letting down” Lauren and says the service must improve.

Lauren told the Echo: “After everything that had happened I thought somebody would be there to help me, but they just left us to get on with it,” she said.

“They [CAMHS] couldn’t see me for ages. I said to them ‘are you waiting for me to attempt suicide’ and they just laughed. They just thought it was a joke.”

The teenager, who has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and clinical depression, says she felt like she was not taken seriously by the staff at CAMHS and that the service has repeatedly failed her.

She said: “Once I called the CAMHS emergency line. I told the woman I wanted to kill myself and she told me to look out of the window and count cars or go and have a hot chocolate.

“She asked me have I got a plan and when I said no she told me ‘you are not serious then’. She was so patronising.”

When she did attempt to take her own life earlier this year, Lauren was visited in hospital by a male member of staff from CAMHS, who insisted on seeing her without her mother.

The youngster, who is scared of men, said she should have been allowed to see a female member of staff and the service needs to take this into consideration when providing support to victims of abuse.

“When I attempted suicide a man from CAMHS came to the hospital who I hadn’t met before,” she said.

“He wouldn’t let me talk to him with my mum. He said I had to speak to him on my own even though I didn’t want to.”

The teenager is calling for the authorities to take young people with mental health problems more seriously and for young victims of abuse to receive support as soon as a disclosure is made.

“They need to take us seriously and stop treating us like we are doing things for attention.

“And they need to not wait until somebody is high risk before they will see them. They need to sort CAMHS out,” she said.

She added: “Young people like me are increasingly being encouraged to come forward and report and yet when we do the support is not there. We are being badly let down.”

  • For the full interview with Mike Kelly about children’s mental health services and his response to Lauren’s case, see Friday’s Daily Echo.
  • Tomorrow, Lauren’s mum tells her story and this week we’ll also look at other apsects, including why police commissioner Martyn Underhill believes Dorset’s mental health services are in “the dark ages.”