Essex woman fears it will ‘take her death’ for NHS mental health services to listen

“I feel like I’m not being listened to and that it will take for my death for them to listen’

An Essex woman who has struggled with mental health problems for years claims she feels it will “take her death for mental health services to care”. Sarah Baker, from Leigh-on-sea, Essex, says she has faced mental health issues for eight years, following a traumatic event she experienced in 2013. 

The 26-year-old says her mental health declined dramatically after 2013, which sadly led to attempts at taking her own life and a number of self-harming incidents. She claims she has since been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), Asperger’s Syndrome and Social Anxiety Disorder. She says she suffers from dissociation, flashbacks, sensory overload, and emotional overwhelm.

Following the self-harming episodes, Sarah says she’s required 15 major operations, was placed into intensive care multiple times and even had to be resuscitated. She now says she also has physical health issues as a result of self-harming, suffering from chronic pain among a number of other physical ailments.

Sarah claims she has been known to mental health services since December 2016, after reporting her self harming to her GP while she was living in Exeter. She says she was subsequently sectioned and referred to Devon Partnership Trust mental health services but claims that after an incident in 2017, she was referred to a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit in Beckton, East London. She claims that while there she was “stranded” with little contact with the outside world.

Sarah said: “I was trapped in a chaotic and crazy locked unit, with limited contact with the outside world. Leave out of the unit was supervised, so were visits, and we were not allowed laptops and mobile phones. This left me stranded in an unpleasant environment, losing my mind, and with no contact with the outside world except calls permitted on the landline and supervised visits. Needless to say, I deteriorated extremely in the following six months and I became acutely suicidal.”

Sarah says she then transitioned into the services of Essex Partnership University Trust (EPUT) in September 2019, but she claims sadly, the “transition was not smooth”. She claims: “A psychiatrist and new care coordinator from Essex Partnership University Trust was not arranged, despite notice that I was being discharged months in advance of my discharge in September 2019. It took two months, until late November 2019, for me to be assigned my community consultant psychiatrist and new care coordinator. By this time, I had deteriorated and was actively self-harming again, eventually being sectioned on January 2, 2020.”

While spending four months as an inpatient at the Basildon Mental Health Unit, Sarah says she continued self-harming. While admitted to the unit, Sarah says she was able to meet with a psychologist on a semi-regular basis, as well as meeting a psychotherapist three times during her four-month stay.

After a month of being incident-free, Sarah says she was discharged in May 2020 – but she claims that she didn’t receive any support from the mental health services while discharged. She says she then had five weeks without an incident, but sadly, her mental health took a turn for the worst in August 2020, which led to her becoming hospitalised.

She claims she was transferred to mental health services in Rochford and then spent eight months in Hong Kong, seeking treatment for her mental health as she claims EPUT told her she wasn’t allowed to go back into the community to her home in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.Sarah claims she was told that her options were to agree to go to an inpatient specialist, or else she would be sectioned and have to go anyway, or to leave the country and seek private treatment in Hong Kong, where she was brought up – but had not lived for 10 years.

She said: “While in Hong Kong, professionals uncovered some trapped traumatic memories from university that changed the whole situation for me. Remembering these events was very triggering and traumatising, and there were physical results of the trauma that all made sense at last”.

In Hong Kong, she says she sought treatment for her mental health, but was “extremely homesick,” missing her family in Leigh-on-Sea. She returned to the UK, but around a month after her arrival, Sarah’s self-harming began again.

‘No support from mental health services’

Sarah explained: “I was under pressure in the community with no support. From the beginning, when I met with my care coordinator for the first time since coming back from Hong Kong, I was resigned to the idea and supportive of plans to admit myself into another specialist unit for therapy.

“I was hoping that I could get some trauma and dissociation treatment, but my community consultant psychiatrist and care coordinator both refused to give me any opportunities to explore diagnosis and assessment and treatment options related to this. It just isn’t helpful to be locked up in a ward with no therapy. In the end, I was forced to seek private opinions in order to deal with this new, what I felt was enlightening, aspects of my mental health problems.”

Sarah claims she was forced to seek private mental health assistance while her community consultant psychiatrist and care coordinator applied for funding for a specialist unit for her. However, for Sarah to gain the funding for her trauma treatment, she says she was required to have a meeting to discuss her trauma story and memories, as well as outlining the diagnosis she received in Hong Kong and her private consultations.

She said: “Everyone knew this would be extremely triggering and I did fret for a long while before finally going to the meeting at Rochford Hospital where I spoke at length about the traumatic incident. Once at home, I felt much worse and like Pandora’s Box had been opened.

“After the meeting, I began struggling to cope, this was alleviated slightly by Christmas festivities and meeting up with people which was very enjoyable, but ultimately I was unable to keep my distress levels down once ‘Pandora’s box’ had been opened. At no point after the meeting did the community team check up on me to make sure I was coping okay after the very detailed recap of my trauma”.

Sarah says she then self-harmed and ended up in surgery at Southend Hospital and after a Mental Health Act Assessment in Southend Hospital on January 12, 2022, Sarah says she was sectioned and taken to the Linden Centre in Chelmsford. Sarah claims she was told by a consultant that the ward wasn’t going to help with her mental health issues, and that they tried to get her back to the community. However, she claims she was also told that they cannot facilitate the trauma and dissociation treatment. She was then discharged from the Linden Centre on January 31.

Sarah said: “This leaves us and my professionals back to square one with identifying the correct treatment unit, applying for funding from Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG), applying to the hospital, going through an assessment, then arranging an admission date. Since I was discharged, I tend to cope badly and it escalates in self-harming and violent behaviours in inpatient settings without therapy.”

‘I feel like they don’t care’

Sarah added: “I feel like mental health services are not really caring. I feel like it will take my death for mental health services to care.

“I feel like I’m not being listened to and that it will take for my death for them to listen.”

Peter Baker, Sarah’s dad, has constantly fought with the mental health services to get help for his daughter.

He said: “I worry everyday – every single day about her. When Sarah first went into mental health services, she went from somebody minorly self-harming to somebody who is seriously suicidal. I feel like they’ve done this to her.

“I want what’s left of my daughter back with me because mental health services aren’t going to do anything for her.”

In response to Sarah’s claims, a spokesperson for Cygnet Beckton said: “Due to patient confidentiality, it is difficult for us to comment on the specific circumstances of individual cases; however when these incidents are said to have taken place, over five years ago, Cygnet Beckton was rated by the Care Quality Commission as Good in all areas and had achieved a national quality accreditation for its psychiatric intensive care unit, the forensic ward and the ward for people with learning difficulties.

“The regulator carried out its inspection in March 2017, during the period in question, and its report concluded that the hospital provided good care in challenging and complex circumstances, and staff consistently responded to patients with care and compassion. 

“After collecting feedback from 28 patients, the CQC highlighted that they were also positive about the care and treatment they received from staff, and specifically noted that staff rarely cancelled patient’s leave.

“We are of course disappointed to hear any concerns, and today continue to promote a culture that continuously seeks improvement. Cygnet Beckton strives to maintain the least restrictive environment, but in some cases supervised leave and limits on the use of electronic equipment are sometimes necessary to protect the safety of our service users, and others on the ward, and applied only after careful assessment and in accordance with safeguarding policies and procedures.”

EPUT have confirmed that they have begun a formal investigation following Sarah’s complaints.

A spokesperson for Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) said: “The care of vulnerable patients is our top priority. 

“We take all complaints of this nature very seriously, and have started formal investigation proceedings in response to Sarah’s correspondence with our Complaints and PALS team.”


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