A heartbroken mother has paid tribute to her beloved teenage son who took his own life and warned of a growing mental health crisis among young people.
Lucas Anthony Backhouse of Garstang died on October 16 last year at home after battling mental health issues during the pandemic. A student at Cardinal Newman College in Preston, the 18-year-old struggled to cope with online learning as well as his A-levels, and his battles with mental health were not disclosed to the university, according to its survey last week.
He had told his brother he was feeling suicidal in August, prompting his parents to seek urgent help from his GP. But he had not been referred to Child and Adult Mental Health Services (CAMHS) earlier due to restrictive thresholds, and was later found not to be actively suicidal or clinically depressed, it was said at the hearing. investigation.
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However, a few weeks later, Lucas, who had three brothers, was found dead at his home. Now his devastated mother Angela has paid tribute to her ‘beloved’ and ‘handsome’ son, but has warned of a rise in serious mental health issues among young people after the pandemic, with steps to address the problem urgently.
Angela told Lancs Live: “Lucas was just very sadly lost in this world, and he couldn’t find his place. Unfortunately, he suffered in silence and he did not speak about his mental health.
“He was just a well-loved, outgoing teenager struggling with his mental health issues that he kept to himself because he thought he could handle it, but really what happened was that it had become too much for him and he hadn’t realized how huge it had become and he had become overwhelmed which I just find heartbreaking because as a parent you always think you can help your child, right? »
Now Angela, a secondary school teacher, has pointed to the mental health crisis plaguing young people and warned it is just the “tip of the iceberg”. She said: “There is a big mental health issue, and I know from experience, working in a secondary school, that mental health issues are very prevalent.
“Unfortunately, statistically, young men have a significantly higher risk, and I think around 75% of suicides are men. The systems are failing everyone right now; there aren’t enough connections between large institutions or small institutions, and taking a holistic view of a student, and they fall through the cracks. I know that’s been incredibly difficult during the pandemic.
“I know there are signs of students who are not coping, such as absenteeism and disengagement, and who say they feel overwhelmed, and I think schools need to train staff to that he can speak more directly with students who are more vulnerable or at risk, which I think is an absolute foundation.
There are long waiting lists for referrals to children’s mental health services, according to Angela, who thinks more resources should be made available and the referral threshold should be less restrictive. She added: “There is a huge waiting list at the moment, and if someone expresses their suicide, it’s urgent, it’s someone borderline and if you have to wait three or four months for an appointment is too late.
“”Lucas was assessed as not suicidal and he committed suicide…I think the threshold needs to change for CAMHS, because Lucas hasn’t quite hit the bar, from what was said during his investigation, but in fact he should have, because he was suicidal.
In the meantime, she also says young people should be treated as minors for mental health reasons until the age of 21, due to the impact of lockdowns which have affected their development, according to Angela.
She added: “I think we need to have a more caring pastoral system for mental health, which means young people are not considered adults until they are 21. Lucas spent his formative years in isolation, so for young people trying to get their own identity, their usual support mechanisms and friendships and peer groups were not available to them because they couldn’t come together, and they could not be anywhere and could not develop in the same way.
“I think it has certainly hindered their psychological and emotional development, which I see as a teacher as well, because a tenth year student at the moment comes across as much younger and less emotionally developed than they would have been. done before.
“Yet they come into A levels and we expect them to behave like young independents and they haven’t developed the skills and they’ve missed that whole part of life; they’ve had no model to follow because they’ve been stuck in their rooms I think there needs to be specific changes around the age limits for mental health referrals because someone can be 18 but in fact, he may still need support, so the adulthood bar for mental health should be raised to 21.”
Exploding ‘gaps’ in the system, she warned that more needed to be done, adding: ‘There are gaps in the system and not enough provisions, and I feel we are on the verge of a iceberg with mental health issues. We may be coming out of the pandemic, but I think we’re going to have longer term mental health issues that we need to be prepared for, because if we don’t have systems in place now, we need to get supplies, money and resources in education, training and health care systems where it will be most effective.
Cardinal Newman College Principal Nick Burnham said: “As a college we are all deeply saddened by the loss of Lucas, the staff who worked closely with him were devastated and we send our sincere condolences to Lucas’ family. The College’s pastoral care of Lucas has not been criticized by the coroner, but we continue to recognize the importance of our role in supporting our young people and will strive to do our best for all of our students.
A government spokesperson said: “Every suicide is a tragedy and prevention is essential. To support children and young people, we last year provided £79 million for children’s mental health services to cope with the impact of the pandemic, so that around 22,500 children and young people from more can access community health services and increase coverage of mental health support teams in schools and colleges. £17million more to build on the mental health support already available in education settings across England, and there are currently 183 operational mental health support teams in schools and colleges, covering around 15 per cent of pupils – that this year we aim to increase between 20% and 25% of the country.
Lucas’ family have installed a commemorative plaque in his memory in Avenham and Miller Park Pagoda which displays the telephone number of PAPYRUS, a UK charity dedicated to preventing suicide and promoting positive mental health and emotional well-being in young people.
To donate to Lucas’ family’s fundraiser for PAPYRUS, Click here.