‘My autistic daughter died after eight months locked up in psychiatric unit’


Exclusives:

Lindsey Bridges says daughter Lauren was failed by the mental health system, saying it ‘robbed her of her daughter, her son of a sister and her parents of their granddaughter’

Lindsey Bridges with daughter Lauren

A “broken” mum has paid tribute to her “beautiful and brave” autistic daughter who took her own life after spending eight months in a locked psychiatric unit six hours from her family home.

Lindsey Bridges, 43, believes her daughter, Lauren, 20, was failed by the mental health system after spending four years locked in six different psychiatric units.

Lindsey said: “Being an inpatient has robbed me of my daughter, my son of his sister, my parents of their granddaughter and most importantly it has taken away Lauren’s life.

“I’ve absolutely broken because of this, I’m lost without her. When she went into hospital I made a promise to her. I promised I’d never give up fighting for her, no matter what. We often spoke about how we would change the world once she was well enough to help me. She hated the system and how it was failing everyone around her.”

Lindsey says the NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and adult mental health teams failed to provide appropriate community support for her daughter who was struggling with day to day life and her grief after the death of her younger brother when she was eight- years-old.







Lauren’s mum described her daughter as ‘beautiful and brave’
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Lindsay Bridges)







Lindsey promised to ‘never stop fighting’ for her daughter
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Image:

Lindsay Bridges)

Lindsey, an integrated urgent care health advisor and hair extensionist, from Bournemouth said: “Lauren first asked for help dealing with her mental health when she was 14 and when no support came her struggle escalated. She had severe anxiety and OCD. She also had Asperger’s but wasn’t diagnosed until she was 17.

“The opportunity for early intervention was missed by Lauren. If there was more support available when we first asked for it I believe things would never have got so bad.

“Lauren has had to put up with a lot in her short life. When she was just eight years old, her little brother de ella, Alfie died from Mitochondrial disease, she watched him suffer for two and a half years.

“Her OCD rituals were often about protecting her family.”

Lauren first went into a psychiatric unit voluntarily on 31 Oct 2018 to receive therapy. But her mum says after a few weeks no therapy materialized and without a plan in place Lauren became very frustrated, felt trapped and her self-harming de ella got progressively worse.







Lauren was locked away for several years where Lindsey claims she did not see daylight or exercise for weeks at a time
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Image:

Lindsay Bridges)







Lauren dreamed of becoming a doctor or a pediatric nurse
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Lindsay Bridges)

Lindsey said: “She would self harm while she was being watched by the healthcare professionals, much more than we could ever have imagined and more severe than we had seen before.

“Lauren was missing her family so much and got worse simply by being in hospital and not having any treatment.”

From October 2018 to February 2022 Lauren was an inpatient at six facilities.

Lindsey said: “For years she has been locked away, often not seeing daylight or offered exercise for weeks on end, with no plan to meet her needs psychiatrically. And little or no therapy or therapeutic activities to stimulate her.

“It was a battle to make sure her basic human rights were being met on a daily basis. On occasions, due to Lauren’s frustration of the system and being locked away 24/7 she has been sent to an adult unit and put in total seclusion without even a bed, just a ground sheet to sleep on.

“She deserved the best and sadly was ripped away from her family time and time again and placed in settings that were like torture for her.

“She’s been treated worse than a criminal at times. All we wanted was the correct care and treatment package to allow her to come home for good, with me, where she belongs to her instead we had to make do with short contact visits and two video calls a day. ”

Lindsey says Lauren was a straight A student who aspired to be a doctor or a pediatric nurse.

She added: “Lauren and I were exceptionally close. Our bond was absolutely unbreakable. We were massively failed by the mental health system.

“Right now over 2000 people with a Learning Disability and/or Autism remain locked in inpatient units.

“Often they are far from family and at an increased risk of abuse. Lauren was one of these people.

“Together we have been fighting for the correct care and treatment package but sadly it didn’t come quick enough.







Lindsey has proposed changes to enhance the lives of vulnerable children and young adults detained under the mental health act
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Lindsay Bridges)







Lauren lost her little brother Alfie when she was just eight
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Image:

Lindsay Bridges)

“After being detained under the mental health act and sent to a unit six hours away in Manchester in June last year Lauren’s mental health declined rapidly.

“She suffered terribly from anxiety and hated being so far away from me.

“It broke her and our little family. She was not just my daughter, she was my best friend.

“She passed away on Thursday 24th February after her heart stopped beating for well over an hour. Doctors kept her alive until 11.32am on 26th February 2022 to see if she could be a suitable organ donor.

“Now she has gone to join her baby brother Alfie in Heaven but she leaves behind her other brother Bobby, her Grandparents, her dad, James, uncles and aunties, godparents, special friends, girlfriend and her very special cousins.

“Her beautiful smile, kind heart and pure courage and strength touched the hearts of everyone who met her.”

In memory of Lauren, Lindsey is proposing the introduction of some changes to significantly enhance the lives of vulnerable children and young adults who are being detained under the mental health act.

Lindsey’s petition has attracted over 5000 signatures already.

Lindsey said: “No children or adults with autism should be detained under the mental health act or sent to psychiatric hospitals out of area, far away from home.

“No child or adult should be left in an unsuitable hospital setting that is detrimental to their well-being.

“Lauren was left alone, far from home, in an environment that was causing more harm than good.

“I believe if my proposals were already in place, my daughter would still be alive.”

“We would like to express our sincere condolences to Lauren’s family and friends at this difficult time.

A Dorset HealthCare spokesperson said: “While we cannot comment on individual circumstances, we can say that we do endeavor to support all patients who are being cared for by our mental health services and in the community so they can lead safe and fulfilling lives. Where patients or their families feel they have not received the support they expect we work with them and do our best to address their concerns

“Out-of-area placements are always used only as a last resort by services, either when we are at full capacity or when a person has very complex needs and requires specialist care not available within Dorset. We have always been committed to reducing the need for out-of-area placements, in line with the NHS Long Term Plan, and over the past few years we have undertaken an extensive program of work to achieve this.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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