Patient view

‘This special team gives so much to families dealing with self-harm and suicide’

A mum explains how the Brookside Adolescent Inpatient team gave hope to her transgender son

Rebekah Bewsey (front, second from right) with the Brookside Adolescent Inpatient
Unit team. Picture: Tim George

Mother of three Lisa was desperate for help when her son started self-harming and attempted suicide. Eventually he was admitted to Brookside Adolescent Inpatient Unit in Essex, part of North East London NHS Foundation Trust, where at last the family received the care they needed. The Brookside Adolescent Inpatient and Young People’s Home treatment team, led by modern matron Rebekah Bewsey, won this year’s Mental Health Practice Award at the RCNi Nurse Awards. Here, Lisa explains how the team’s care has given hope to her transgender son

Before my son was given a place at Brookside, the lack of support was dreadful. It was like talking to a brick wall. I felt so alone.

My son, who is transgender, first met a nurse from Brookside in the emergency department after he had taken tablets and self-harmed again. For the first time he picked his head up and said ‘I really like her mum’. She was so lovely and really listened to him. 

Fighting to keep him alive

After more visits to A&E, he was admitted to Brookside, where he was on and off for two years. I was so relieved; I had been fighting to keep him alive, barely sleeping. They were lifesavers, literally.

Everyone at Brookside is so kind, from the medical staff to the cleaners. When we were visiting, staff walking past would chat to my son and to us, always using first names.

‘The people are caring and it is a caring environment. When you are low and vulnerable, things like this make all the difference’

The people are caring and it is a caring environment – calm, light and cheerful. When you are low and vulnerable, things like this make all the difference. 

Communication flows from the nursing staff and psychiatrists, especially over clinical issues. If they think you are concerned about something they make time to take you somewhere for a chat, even if you don’t have an appointment. It makes such a massive difference.

The Brookside team creates a welcoming environment for young people. Picture: Tim George

My younger daughter had been upset because she pictured her brother in a hospital ward; she was not able to see the living area and snooker table because she was under 18 and not allowed in. But on a day when the ward was empty, a healthcare assistant took her through it to the gym so she could play basketball with her brother. It made such a difference to her to see where he was. 

The staff made us all feel so welcome that one day when I was looking for a babysitter my youngest daughter said ‘just drop me down at Brookside’.

Once when my son tried to strangle himself, Rebekah’s quick thinking saved his life. The investigation that followed the event found it could not have been prevented. We were very lucky, but I know how traumatic it is for the nurses in these circumstances. They go away and shed a tear, but then come back full of positivity and hope. 

Staff give so much of themselves

At Brookside my son made a couple of friends for the first time. The three really encouraged each other in a very positive way. 

My son has since been transferred because his self-harming escalated, and one of his other friends has left. Before the third was due to move, and even though it was a Saturday, Rebekah drove them to visit my son just so they could be together one last time.

When I told my son they were coming, he burst into tears. It was such a kind and thoughtful a gesture by Rebekah. It has made him determined to work really hard to make them proud of him and give something back.

He talks about Brookside a lot because the staff were so kind and caring. I used to say to the team that it is like a dysfunctional family – a lovely environment in the most difficult of circumstamces. These special people work so hard and give so much of themselves. They are passionate about their patients and I am forever grateful to them.

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