THIS week the Daily Echo put the spotlight on the twin issues of child sex abuse and children’s mental health services in Dorset.

During our They Deserve Better campaign we shared the stories of a 15-year-old abuse victim, Lauren, and her mother, Sarah, who were repeatedly failed by CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services).

Mike Kelly, a director at CAMHS, apologised for letting the family down and said the service must improve.

We also heard from Dorset’s Police and Crime Commis-sioner Martyn Underhill, pictured left, who is calling for mental health services to be ‘brought out of the dark ages’ and the founders of a pioneering new charity in Dorset, ACTS FAST, hoping to support families torn apart by abuse.

The campaign has prompted a huge response from Daily Echo readers, with hundreds of people having their say and sharing their personal experiences on our website and Facebook page.

Here are some of your views:


Lauren waited eight weeks to see a counsellor from CAHMS after disclosing she had been abused by her stepfather last year. She says she has been repeatedly failed by the service.

After we shared her story on Monday, dozens of people contacted us saying they too have struggled to access support from CAMHS for either themselves or loved ones.

And many more said they have also struggled to access support from adult mental health services. One mother took to Facebook to say: “My daughter desperately needed help and waited six months after CAMHS’ assessment to actually see a therapist.

“She was then offered a few sporadic sessions of very poor counselling, in which she was never able to feel safe or understood enough to speak honestly about her problems. She ended feeling judged and disheartened, perhaps worse off than before her sessions.”

She added: “It is a disgrace the CAMHS are letting down our most vulnerable young people, with their very poor quality, overstretched service.

“I’m sure they are under-funded but someone has to accept the blame for this failure.”

Following her daughter’s battle with poor mental health, another mother said it takes too long for young people to receive the help they need.

She said: “It took her being very poorly, to finally get the right help. When she got it, the professionals were great, but the waiting lists are so long.

“I have had years of going to bed at nights, not really knowing if she’d still be alive the next day. So much more needs desperately to be done.

“This is a huge issue and should be taken very seriously indeed.”

Other parents have contacted us to say how much they appreciated the help they have received from CAMHS.

One said: “I know things have got worse at CAMHS due to cutbacks in staff. In their defence during my daughter’s childhood, from eight to 16, she received weekly therapy to help with her early life trauma.

“Without that help I don’t know where she would have been now. They also scheduled time for me to offload over the years which I found a lifesaver.”


THE death of 21-year-old Matthew Mason, who was found hanged outside his home in Bournemouth last week, sent shockwaves through the local community. Backing the Daily Echo’s campaign, his parents contacted us to say their son, who had struggled with mental health problems for many years, did not always receive the help he needed. Calling for greater awareness about mental health, Matthew’s father David said: “He was a very loved young man but because of his mental health he didn’t realise how loved he was.”

Commenting on the tragedy, one reader going by the name truthplatform, said: “This is a parent’s nightmare. From the time they are born, we worry, we try to safeguard but ultimately when they are adults it is all so much more difficult to help them, and where specialist help is needed, we are then at the mercy of others.

“When cuts are made in budgets, it always seems to be to those most vulnerable first – a truly disgraceful situation. I feel so very sorry for this poor family. It is they who have to live with the grief.”

Longfacem8, added: “This is very sad. My condolences are with Matthew’s family and I sincerely hope this will encourage better support for young people with mental health issues. Perhaps if his condition was taken more seriously he would still be alive today.”


Throwing his support behind our campaign, Dorset PCC Martyn Underhill said mental health services in Dorset need to be ‘brought out of the dark ages’.

He called for more money to be allocated to mental health services and, in particular, for more support to be provided to young victims of abuse. His views were echoed by many of our readers who told us mental health services are overstretched and under-funded.

On Facebook Cadame Massip said: “It is extremely sad that in a place of such need and in this day and age the failure of these services is so great. Not only are they failing these people they are failing society as a whole. My experience with depression was made only worse by their failings.”

On the Daily Echo website, buickboy said: “My wife has been working in mental health for over 12 years now and in that time has seen constant staff reductions, funding cuts and workload increases to the point where she has come close to having a nervous breakdown from the increasing and never ending pressure.

“Colleagues are leaving in droves and not being replaced while those left are expected to fulfil their duties as well.”