A parent's perspective: "The key to our daughter’s recovery was trusting Schoen Clinic Newbridge with her care completely."
When Jazz developed an eating disorder, her parents knew they needed help. After 9 months of therapy which wasn't working, they were referred to Schoen Clinic Newbridge and Jazz was admitted within days. Now fully discharged from treatment, Lisa and John share their story today, expressing how proud they are of her achievements and how grateful they are to have received help from Schoen Clinic Newbridge.
We're a very close family, in fact we have a saying – 'If one of us gets kicked, we all limp'. Perhaps this is why it was so terribly difficult and heart-breaking for us all when we discovered our sixteen-year-old daughter, Jazz, was seriously struggling in life.
Despite no obvious changes to her diet or eating patterns, Jazz was suddenly losing a frightening amount of weight. The reason for this, as we came to discover, was that she was excessively exercising at night. We visited our GP a few times and found a Therapist whom Jazz saw for around 9 months. Then one day when we received the crushing news that they couldn't help her anymore; they told us there was nothing else they could do for her and recommended contacting Schoen Clinic Newbridge, who specialise in treating young people with eating disorders.
Whilst our initial meeting with the clinic was undoubtedly tough, it gave us a lot of hope. The Hospital Director Natalie, gave us a clear route to helping Jazz and what's more, she had an available bed. Unfortunately, paying for residential care would've been very difficult for us, but Natalie explained we could apply for the place via the NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). We had a meeting with CAMHS, which was fantastic and Jazz very quickly had various tests to assess her suitability. She was admitted to Schoen Newbridge Clinic 2 days later.
We were very proud of Jazz's willingness to go to the hospital; we do think the illness had taken over her emotions and she was quite numb at this point, but it took a lot of courage to walk through the door. Looking back, I don't think she understood how unwell she was. It was extremely hard for us as her parents, to drive away and leave her there but we put our trust in Natalie and her team to do the best they could for our daughter.
As parents, we were offered group sessions with other families of children in the hospital, where we talked about how we cope and what we do to look after ourselves. Some parents struggled with entrusting their child to the clinicians and the processes they have in place. There were usually a lot of questions and sometimes a bit of pushback on certain methods. However, we didn't push back on the process at all. I strongly believe that's what made it a success for us; if Schoen Clinic Newbridge was a restaurant, it'd be a fixed menu not a buffet – you can't pick or choose what you take. We went in with that trust and understood she was absolutely in the right place, so we had to let those who know best get on and treat Jazz.
The process is hard for sure, but if it were easy then she would've almost certainly failed. In our view, parents have got to be prepared to hand over their 'broken' child and allow the experts to rebuild and 'fix' them.
Other times, we had sessions with Jazz and her therapists. Her Psychotherapist was absolutely amazing and we'd have reviews with them and her Psychiatrist to make sure we always knew what was happening with her care.
Rather remarkably, as Jazz was school-aged, she studied for and completed her GCSEs in their specialist school whilst at the hospital and she achieved top grades! We owe a lot to her teachers who kept her focused on her studies, as well as her treatment journey. To say we are proud of Jazz's achievement would be the understatement of the century.
It's frustrating that there's no quick fix when it comes to mental health; in fact, Jazz was in the hospital for 7 months, only coming home for a couple of hours on Christmas Day and a family birthday in February. We decided she was okay to come home once she'd completed her GCSEs in July, her weight had improved and her habits had changed. Her improvement was clear to see and we were really comfortable in her coming home. Jazz continued with the CAMHS service for a year once she was home, and was greatly supported by her wonderful friends who had been brilliant throughout her time at Schoen Clinic Newbridge.
Jazz has just completed her A Levels and has been inspired to study medicine, with the hope of going into paediatric medicine. Not only has she achieved great things, academically, she is also volunteering as a Covid vaccinator – what an inspiration! The most important thing to us is that we've got our old Jazz back. When she drifted into this disease, she completely lost her silly sense of humour and now she's got it back.
For us as parents, it was really important not to hide Jazz's illness. We never made it a secret; we shared it with our bosses, our friends and other family members. Previously, we didn't know how many young people develop eating disorders and need this service, and now we believe that we all need to talk about it more, and make conversation about it as mainstream as a physical injury.
We are so grateful to and totally in awe of, everyone who works at Schoen Clinic. They really are outstanding and you can sense at every level how much they care. There are far easier jobs to do in life, but you can see that they have a calling to help those who really need them. And thank goodness, because where would our young people be without these outstanding individuals?
- Lisa & John.
*Although this story is real, images of actors have been used on this occasion.