Twelve-year-old Leyla, an only child, suffered severe early trauma, witnessing a violent and dysfunctional family relationship and bitter divorce between her parents. With significant mental health and behavioural issues, but too young to be diagnosed, Leyla was referred to us by Family and Community Services (FACS), who had tried every other option to assist her and her mother.
Leyla presented with high-risk behaviours which included repeated attempts to commit suicide by leaping in front of cars, trying to throw herself off balconies, drinking bleach and other chemicals, cutting herself with knives, jumping out of moving vehicles, and going home with strangers. Leyla’s mother, a single parent, was not coping and unable to manage Leyla’s behaviours.
Taldumande arranged for the family to receive intensive services, daily and for extended hours, as most incidents were occurring in the evenings and on weekends. We worked very closely with Leyla and her parents to set up a practical Family Support Plan. This required several family case meetings which included all associated services such as FACS, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, Department of Education, Police and various other health services. In this way initial goals were established with input from Leyla’s mother in particular. All support plans were written and reviewed with the family and stakeholders on a regular basis.
The intensive case management required for Leyla and her mother involved complex coordination of a multitude of services to access effective and timely support, during ongoing crises. Weekly hospitalisations were scheduled in liaison with high level medical and mental health teams. At the same time we had to liaise with both parents which in itself was a challenging task. Leyla’s mother also needed help to cope with her own mental health issues and linking her with the appropriate counsellors was a key part of the family’s support plan. Leyla’s mother lost her job while trying to look after Leyla, which triggered a nervous breakdown and the potential of suicide.
Much time and effort was devoted to gaining Leyla’s trust to enable her to communicate her feelings and be open to support from her case manager. Brief Solution Focused Therapy techniques as well as Therapeutic Crisis Intervention tools were employed where required. Leyla initially required intensive monitoring due to her highly erratic moods and suicidality. After several months of basic safety and physical/emotional support, she began to stabilise and progress towards her goals. She started to express her emotions, made an attempt to attend school, and self-regulate her moods, using the tools she had acquired during the intensive support period.
We maintained regular essential contact with Leyla’s mother and encouraged involvement from her father. We provided Leyla’s mother with case management support for depression and anxiety, which gave her access to counselling. The counselling aimed to help her overcome barriers in caring for Leyla. Our Senior Case Manager exercised a high level of advocacy on Leyla’s behalf, while maintaining a neutral and supportive position
towards her parents.
After many months of intensive work, Leyla’s mother felt ashamed to stay in her local community and decided to move to another town to make a new start. Our advocacy and skilled case management connected Leyla and her mother with the local hospital, mental health services, family support services, support groups, and with the local high school. We maintained ongoing support for Leyla and her mother by phone, often several times a day, for the next three months, including early morning calls to help get Leyla to school, as she had not been in school for most of the year.
Leyla’s mother now sends Taldumande regular messages reporting that Leyla is still attending school, has made friends, and is playing netball. Leyla has not had any admissions to the hospital nor police interventions since last year. Her mother is incredibly pleased with her progress, and attributes this to Taldumande’s support. Leyla and her mother are an excellent example of a family who, through Taldumande, gained strategies and tools to handle life’s conflicts and challenges independently and successfully.