Ben is back in England
Ben arrived in London today, 20 April, on account of an expired visa. In term of fundraising, I urgently still need R20 000 towards the last payment at Papillon and R10 000 for airfares (a total of R30 000 or USD400). I appeal to you please to dig deep this one last time because my credit cards are in very poor shape.
In terms of “Team Ben” for which I appealed in my last contribution (below), the response has been small but passionate. There is Charlotte in Kent (a good friend of Ben’s), Natasha in Hertfordshire (a friend of mine from school) and Carol in Suffolk (who has been my closest friend since university days). Among them, they have collected Ben from Heathrow and are giving him a place to stay for a few days, are researching assisted housing in London, have researched web sites relating to support for people with mental health problems, and are willing to make phone calls, fill in forms for Ben and get them delivered in hard copy or by email, and, if necessary, make hard-hitting phone calls to reluctant authorities. A lot of the follow-up of web sites will have to be delegated to others on the Team because Ben and I ran out of time in the last week Ben spent with me. I thank Team Ben with all my heart. I don’t know what Ben and I would do without your generosity. For my part, I have made an application to the Open House Hostel in St Albans, which is Ben’s first choice for initial accommodation. I have also written to the social worker at Gordon Hospital in Westminister, who dealt with Ben in regard to avoiding homelessness in London and who arranged the medical repatriation to South Africa. We now await a response from one of these; hopefully it will be positive.
What is still missing on Team Ben is a mentor who will help Ben in the first steps of building a part-time occupation as a tattoo artist. He received the theoretical instructions while he was at Papillon, but he needs guidance in the first steps of transferring his admittedly impressive designs into real live tattoos on real live humans. Any takers? Please? This is a real passion for Ben and would give him a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I appeal to an establish tattoo artist with compasion and patience to respond. You can contact me via my email address: [email protected]
Ben completes his period at PAPILLON PSYCHIATRIC RECOVERY HOME
We need a “TEAM BEN”
On 20 April Ben will be leaving Papillon Psychiatric Recovery Home in South Africa after a final family meeting to assess his progress and the way forward. That’s where the plan for him (described below) is coming unstuck. Initially we were looking at three possible places of assisted living to which Ben might transfer after Papillon. Two have since been excluded as unsuitable. The third, a farm environment, seemed a good option. But Ben has made up his mind absolutely immovably that he is returning to England, if necessary to live on the streets. That would undo all the progress he has made here. He is too old to force him to stay, and if he tries to make his own way out of the country, he will create an immigration mess that may see him banned from re-entering the country. So what next? For a start, the money raising component of this campaign needs to continue in order to pay for the last month of Ben’s time at Papillon and for travel costs, PLEASE. But then there is the arrival of Ben in England and what becomes of him then?
For my own medical and financial reasons, I cannot accompany Ben to England. So the only alternative I can think of right now, is to reach out to those of you living in London who know either Ben or me directly. My admittedly bizarre idea is to catalyse the formation of a “Team Ben”. The purpose will be to help put Ben in contact with all the necessary authorities, to help him practically with filling in forms (he is dyslexic), and to help him deal with officialdom (his condition means he has very poor frustration tolerance). I am not asking anyone to take him into your home (except perhaps the first night or two). I am not asking anyone to take weeks out of their own lives. I am imagining a number of people, each of whom can take a day or two to help Ben through the next step of the processes of finding housing, benefit, ongoing medical care and part-time work. Here is a list of things I imagine needing to happen. Please please PLEASE – let there be enough of you in London with the heart to make it possible for Ben to integrate back into English society in a healthy way. If there are costs, I will find a way to cover them. I ask “only” for your good will.
Here are the steps that present themselves to my mind:
- A place for Ben to stay when he arrives in England (such as a decent shelter) that is safe in terms of his person and his belongings. He needs to be persuaded that going back to living on the streets will defeat the therapeutic process he underwent at the Gordon Hospital in Westminster and at Papillon in South Africa.
- Assistance in applying for housing in a London borough other than Bromley (where he has had several disagreements which would compromise his application). This assistance needs to involve filling in forms and helping him stay calm and patient through the inevitable delays and waiting period.
- Assistance in obtaining benefit. He is of the belief that he was granted benefit shortly before coming to South Africa. This needs to be checked and if not true, he needs help with the necessary application with the same hands-on assistance as for the housing application.
- Registration with a suitable medical facility (GP or hospital) that will oversee his condition and his medication long-term, so that he does not gradually deteriorate back into the condition in which he was admitted at the Gordon Hospital.
- Ben completed a tatttooing apprenticeship while at Papillion and absolutely loved it. His condition does not allow him to work full time in a pressured environment, but he would love to do some kind of part-time work. Any guidance in putting him in contact with a suitable mentor would be brilliant.
Ben's problem UPDATED
My son Ben (21) was diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder 1 as a youngster, progressing to psychotic episodes during his depressive phases in his late teens. He has spent the past two years in the UK, most of it on the streets, with intermittent treatment only when his condition became serious enough to require hospitalisation. He has not been on continuous medication, which is essential for managing his mental health, for the entire duration of his time in the UK. The last mental hospital where he was treated was the first to show insight into Ben's condition and arranged a medical repatriation to South Africa.
State facilities here in South Africa do not provide long term psychiatric care. There are very few private facilities and I have found only one which provides for Ben's needs: Papillon Psychiatric Recovery Centre in Johannesburg. Here his diagnosis has been reviewed and it was found that the balance of his symptoms has changed. His present diagnosis, made at Papillon and still under review, is high functioning autism spectrum with secondary diagnoses of bipolar mood disorder 2 and borderline personality disorder. In the UK he was also diagnosed as borderline personality disorder on two occasions. It is clear that a complete review of his symptoms, diagnoses, medications and therapeutic needs are essential for Ben. He needs Papillon and its services. However, the State subsidy for such an institution is miniscule, so the fees are high, beyond my reach.
I appeal to you to assist me in getting Ben the help he needs.
I believe that Ben will benefit from this chance to receive an ongoing assessment, appropriate medication and the correct therapies to stabilize him and for him to learn the skills necessary to cope with life. Both my wish and his is for him, over time, to get closer to fulfilling his potential and become a contributing member of society.
The funding implications have increased since Ben began the programme at Papillon. In the first three months, during initial sub-acute treatment, the cost was R25 000 in the first month (approx USD 1 900), and R26 500 (USD 2 015) in the second month. With the kind help of donors and friends, we made it through the first two months. The fee payable at the end of March is R30 000 (USD 2 300). Psychiatric treatment and medication are extra. Thereafter, it is expected that Ben will move into the assisted living phase of his treatment. The fee for this is estimated at R25 000 per month (approx USD 1 900) for an indefinite time - again, psychiatric costs and medications are extra. The total cost for one year is the goal for this campaign, viz approximately R306 500 (approximately USD 25 000). This site provides the opportunity to donate in USD (minimum USD 1), which is converted to South African rand via PayPal. If you prefer to donate directly in rand, there is a facility on the BPKidsSouthAfrica website listed below. Thank you from my heart and Ben's for every dollar, pound or rand you give. You are creating the opportunity to change a young life.
Other youngsters like Ben
Many children and young adults suffer from bipolar disorder, autism and other mental illness, with only their parents to fight their corner. Diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children and youngsters is often controversial and many practitioners are reluctant to make the diagnosis at all.The rest of the world labels such children as badly behaved, needing "a jolly good hiding" and as the product of bad parenting. As the the mother of two sons with mental health issues, my boy and especially I have been lucky enough to the have the unwavering support of the BP Kids and Teens South Africa Group, both on WhatsApp and on their website http://www.bpkidssouthafrica.co.za. Please visit this website to see testimonials of young people with mental health issues, particularly bipolar disorder.
Description of treatment philosophy at Papillon
“We believe in looking forwards and not backwards – living in the past does not serve anyone – you need to build on what you have today,” - Yolandé, MD of Papillon
Since our launch in 2013, Papillon (http://www.papillon.org.za) has had a 70% success rate in the total reintegration of clients. This figure encompasses clients that have moved from just-out-of-hospital into a structured work environment and also independent or sometimes assisted-living clients.
Our treatment philosophy emphasises: Assessment, individual treatment plans and interventions, and then reintegration planning and the execution thereof - in a period of three to twelve months, depending on the client. We work off a five-step treatment programme developed by McLean Hospital in the USA.
At the core of all our endeavours is the belief that the individual can fully recover if she/he has the will to so. This is based on the life experience of Yolandé Geyser, the MD of Papillon. Yolandé herself suffers from a psychiatric disorder and is an activist for this audience.
All funds raised in excess of Ben's fees will be donated to Papillion for the treatment of other bipolar and schizophrenia patients who have very very few other options in terms of long term residential treatment in South Africa.