How a Digital Mental Health Assessment brought our family together
by Katie Holt (A parent and a mum)
When my youngest daughter (I'll refer to her as 'A') started to present behaviours associated with ADHD, such as difficulties sitting still, being very active, talking over others, and at times putting herself in harms way, such as running into the road, I completed a self-referral to our local CAMHS.
Having previously experienced an autism assessment process with my older daughter, I understand how lengthy and stressful the experience can potentially be. Especially if long waiting times, inconvenient appointments and travel to clinics are factored into the equation.
As we waited for a response, the pressure started to mount on the whole family, more arguments and our day-to-day routines were affected. One day, at near breaking-point, I approached a support worker at my daughter’s school. She suggested writing another letter to CAMHS asking for help. A couple of weeks later, a letter arrived from CAMHS introducing a new option – a brand new online service that was now available to us, from a company called Healios.
I knew my daughter was adept at ‘masking’ her behaviour in front of others. How would a clinician be able to help us using an online service? Surely, it couldn’t be done! However, with no alternative we decided to go with Healios and I was keen to see what it could offer us as a family. As soon as we completed the consent form, the process was so easy. The system Healios uses is called Panacea and was fully explained by the Client Experience Manager, our account was set up in minutes. The most stressful part was testing the strength of our wi-fi.
We made all our appointments online and were ready to go. I was still apprehensive about the level of support and engagement a digital service could provide, but faced with extremely long waiting times, I wanted to get the help that I felt my daughter needed, as soon as possible.
Reputation enhanced during our initial session
At its core, Healios is about human-to-human connections, placing expert clinicians in front of people that need care. The only difference is how the care is delivered, Healios creates virtual clinics through their online platform, and this brings huge benefits for both the NHS and the people receiving the care. Healios clinicians can be based anywhere in the UK and support the local NHS team by providing additional clinical capacity. This in turn enables more people to be seen more quickly.
At our first session I was so concerned about ‘making a good impression’ I kept telling my daughter to ‘sit still’ or ‘stop fidgeting’. Ukwuori-Gisela, the clinician running our initial session, asked me to allow my daughter to be herself and not to worry. She explained to me that, “We get to see so much more when they feel relaxed and can behave the way they feel is natural and say what they want.”
Ukwuori-Gisela gave time for my daughter to speak freely and I also had plenty of opportunity to speak alone with Ukwuori-Gisela. The process was brilliant, very relaxed and controlled. The overriding feeling was one of being listened to and that my concerns were real. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted from the family. At Healios, the Initial Session is designed to capture data on your current situation and takes about one hour.
Better and better
Following the initial session with Ukwuori-Gisela, we moved to the ‘Observation’ and ‘Development’ sessions. In total this took about 5 hours over 6 sessions. This second step in the assessment process usually occurs within 48 hours of the initial session. The beauty of the Healios system is that the family control when the appointments occur.
Stephanie was our clinician and I have to say up front, she was amazing!
Our sessions with Stephanie were on Thursdays and my daughter very quickly looked forward to her ‘Stephanie Day’. For the first session with Stephanie, my daughter and I sat together on the sofa in our lounge with my laptop. Stephanie was at home on her PC. It felt so easy, so comfortable. It felt like my daughter and I had known Stephanie for ages. A real skill to make digital assessments work.
Stephanie was adept at encouraging my daughter to have a go at simple things that are achievable, pleasurable and that have quickly become second nature. Stephanie encouraged my daughter to make a ‘Calm Box’. This works brilliantly for times when my daughter needs to take it easy.
My daughter adds items to the box to help her refocus and calm down, and this is great in assisting to regulate her emotions. My daughter also loves using the emojis in the Healios portal to explain her good day. Thanks to Stephanie, it has now become one of my daughter’s go-to tools. It really helps her to feel in control and communicate more easily.
My daughter still talks about Stephanie fondly
Panacea is more that just a video link. It has zoom functions, multiple engagement tools, such as icons and emojis, storyboards and free text, to encourage communication if someone doesn’t wish to talk. All sessions are recorded allowing the clinicians to review the exact detail of the session.
“The beauty of having a Healios assessment means that you can get home, make a cup of coffee and relax before starting the session. No stress.”
I feel like Healios has helped my daughter and all the family get a long way through the tunnel. I’ve moved from a position of feeling isolated and not listened to, to a position where I feel reassured and fully supported.
My personal experience is that Healios offers families, like ours, so much more than traditional CAMHS. I know that CAMHS does a great job and that online is not right for everyone but for those that get the chance I whole-heartedly recommend Healios.
When you think about it, getting a child to travel to a clinic, spend half a day waiting around and then travel home is crazy!
One day, I had a diary clash and we knew we wouldn’t be able to make our scheduled appointment with Stephanie, I simply went online into our Healios portal and rescheduled the appointment. It was that simple.
The process took a few minutes and was completely hassle-free. What took me just a few minutes might previously have taken many weeks of stressful phone calls. Another of the benefits of the Healios service for busy families.
My daughter 'A' is responding well to the strategies that Stephanie has introduced her to. Since using the Healios service, she has experienced less ‘meltdowns’.
The experience has also taught me and my husband a lot. We are learning to see things through her eyes and understand that she processes information differently, and that’s ok.
Our clinician, Stephanie, taught us to see the good things. So when we have a bad day, we talk about it, but we also reflect on the entire week as a whole, and talk about the positive aspects of what we’ve done.
When my eldest daughter went through her assessment, it left us deflated. All we got was a piece of paper and I was expecting more. With Healios, we got the full package, clear explanation, loads of tools and strategies to use, plus our own account on the Healios portal which we can always access whenever we wish.
Working with Healios has been an uplifting experience, from which we have developed so many tools and strategies that we can use for life. My advice, if you receive a letter from your local NHS referring you to Healios, accept it. It will change your life!
To discuss how Healios can work with your teams and provide mental health, autism and ADHD services call us on:
0330 124 4222
Bringing exceptional healthcare to anyone, any time, anywhere