Attachment disorder most commonly affects children who were unable to form a bond with their caregiver during the early stages of life.
James for example – the 14-year old stepson of Amy Robson – can be a joy to be around on a good day, and just like any other teenage boy will happily challenge you to a computer game or chat to you about the football scores. On a bad day however, that very same teen has been known to threaten his peers in class, physically attack his teachers, and has even on occasion excreted in the classroom.
James had a difficult start in life, spending his early years living with his alcoholic mother up until his father was granted custody of him when he was aged eight. Despite then moving to a more stable environment, James started to display concerning behavior – refusing point blank to change his underpants for weeks and even more worryingly, threatening to kill himself.
It was two years back now that James was officially diagnosed with attachment disorder, and though his parents were relieved to some extent at finally having received a diagnosis – they found that help for the condition was scarce.
“We hit a crisis point (last year) as we just weren’t getting any help,” explained Robson. She went onto say that getting a diagnosis was difficult enough, and then virtually as soon as a Camhs (child and adolescent mental health services) worker diagnosed James, funding was cut and the offer of help was removed.
Whilst there is currently very little help available for families struggling to cope with attachment disorder, a government grant that has recently been awarded to a group of child psychiatrists from Hull York Medical School could mean that there is still hope. The group have be tasked to carry out a review of which interventions are the most effective in helping parents of children with such problems.
According to honorary senior lecturer and consultant child psychiatrist Barry Wright, who will be leading the review, the findings of the study are expected to be published in 2014. Wright explained that ‘swift diagnosis and early intervention’ are key in issues such as attachment disorder – as putting in the support early on means that more dividends are returned in the long run.
In spite of the cuts that have been made to many Camhs services, the government continues to argue that the mental health and psychological well-being of children is an important issue which they fully intend to tackle.
In October 2011, Paul Burstow the care services minister promised a £32m investment in psychological therapies for children and young people – including those affected by attachment disorder.
” We’re working with young people and staff to start to change the way mental health is delivered by the NHS. Half of those with mental health problems first experience symptoms by the age of 14, and three-quarters before their mid-20s. This pioneering work will focus on early and effective treatment.” Said Burstow.
However, until these services are implemented it looks like many families will continue to struggle without a support network in position to help them.
*Some names have been changed throughout
If you have been affected by attachment disorder and would like to discuss your experiences with a counsellor, please use our search tool to locate a qualified professional in your local area.
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