He Died Waiting: Learning the lessons – a bereaved mother’s view of mental health services

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Author: Caroline Aldridge

Publisher: Learning Social Worker Publications

Published: December 2020

ISBN: 9781838242008

Caroline’s eldest son, Tim, had bipolar disorder. The mental health services he encountered were chaotic, inaccessible, and unsafe. Tim never seemed to be the right kind of ill to get the help he needed. Like many other people with mental illness, he joined an endless waiting list. He died waiting for an appointment.

Caroline was thrust into the incomprehensible and brutal procedures that follow an ‘unexpected death’. The collision of her professional and personal life led to consequences beyond anything she could have imagined. She encountered a cruel, system-wide, culture of denial and defensiveness.

Nevertheless, this is a positive narrative about the power of integrity, relationships, compassion, and love. Tim’s story illustrates the impact of the current crisis in mental health services and the empty rhetoric of commitments to ‘learn lessons’ when things go wrong. Caroline’s book is a plea, for policymakers, organisations, professionals, and the public, to exercise decency, challenge unsafe or unkind practice, support people in distress, and push for improved services.

Quotes from readers:

He Died Waiting “…is an urgent call for change in mental health services that needs to be heard… Compelling reading. A masterful combination of personal and professional narratives…” (Mental health nursing lecturer)
He Died Waiting “ …  is more powerful than any model, statistic, white paper or guidelines that I try to learn from. Real lived experience means so much more, and relatable… I am truly inspired by this book.” (Clinical nurse trainer)
“I cannot recommend He Died Waiting highly enough.It is an essential text for anyone concerned with mental health in our society today. It is beautifully written  and I veered from admiration to despair, from tears to hope.This book will not only move you but leave you asking what can you do to effect change.” (Bereaved relative)