A troubled teen must enter secure accomodation after making multiple suicide attempts, a family court judge has concluded.
The girl in question, ‘A’, was born in 1999 and therefore 17 years of age. Thanks to a difficutl childhood she had problems with her mental health, but was still, in the words of Her Honour Judge Moir, “an intelligent and obviously articulate young lady”.
The Judge explained:
“She told me that she does want to get better and the way she sees the optimum way of achieving that is to try and help herself and to access therapy at her own pace.”
A is prone to self-harm and has cut herself visibly on a number of occasions. She has a history of suicide attempts but according to Judge Moir:
“The view which is generally expressed in relation to this is that A does not want, in fact, to die, but that she feels overwhelmed at times with her problems and the attempts to end her life are a symptom of her mental health difficulties. The very great concern, however, is that there may be an occasion when A achieves an end that she does not intend by accident.”
Despite her obvious intelligence and her occasionally pleasant demeanour, A has repeatedly lied to social workers from Newcastle City Council and tried to manipulate them. Her sometimes difficult behaviour had led to the breakdown of an adoption placement, after which she was placed in residential foster care. While in one particular residential home, she was exposed to drugs, assaulted and even raped.
A was also caught up in city-wide investigation into the sexual exploitation of vulnerable women, but the men who had allegedly abused her were acquitted of the charges.
Judge Moir said:
“…understandably, all of this has had a significant impact on A and has shaped and instigated the difficulties which she has.”
Since her experiences in the first residential home, A has moved restlessly from placement to placement, continuing her self-harming and outbursts of aggressive behaviour which have caused injuries to residential home staff. One on one occasion, in a ‘bespoke’ placement created to meet her specific needs, A inflicted a serious injury on a staff member and set fire to her room. The Police were called.
Later, A was taken to hospital several times for different reasons. These included taking an overdose of pills, cutting herself, banging her head against a wall, and drinking cleaning fluid. With her behavour continuing to deteriorate, A was detained under the Mental Health Act and sedated. Doctors diagnosed psychosis, post-traumatic stress, and low mood.She was eventually discharged in February this year following treatment.
But shortly afterwards, back in her residential home, A tried to hang herself. A few days later she repeated the attempt and was immediately taken into emergency accomodation.
Judge Moir explained:
“The local authority maintains their stance that, at this juncture, only secure accommodation will contain A and keep her safe and provide the opportunity for therapy, which everyone recognises A desperately needs and, indeed, deserves in light of her experiences.”
The teen, meanwhile, was opposed to the idea of entering secure accomodation, fearing it might lead to a further deterioration in her mental health. She feared a noisy environment and forcible mixing with others her own age.
A’s legal guardian said she was concerned about the lack of information on just how A’s mental health problems would be treated in the secure unit, saying she thought it was a “very finely balanced case”.
But Judge Moir noted that the absence of available alternative accomodation for A, following her prevous behaviour, and concluded that:
“I am satisfied, and I know A will not like this, that the only way that can be achieved is by placement in secure. The reason I have come to that decision is that I have reviewed very carefully the history of this matter. I have looked at what I have been told as far as what is occurring recently and I have looked at the pattern and the cycle. What I want is what is best for A and to give her every opportunity to be able to make something of herself in her life because she has huge potential, I have no doubt about that whatsoever.”
The ruling is available to read in full here.
Photo by DeWitt Clinton via Flickr