There but for the grace of God go us all

For Tuesday’s Journal I wrote an article about Ann (not her real name) who sat across the office from me and spoke eloquently about how she had tried - and tried, and tried - to get help for her son who had fallen into a cycle of drug abuse.

Her son, just 19, has tried to kill himself repeatedly. While there were details Ann asked me not to share in the paper to protect her son and other family members I can assure you these attempts were serious. Ann has seen things no mother ever wants to see.

She lives with two primary emotions, that of fear - that the next phonecall or knock on the door will be the one to tell her that her beloved son is dead - and frustration - that despite her literally begging for help - no facility is available to treat her son while he detoxes from the cocktail of substances he ingests daily. He needs to be “clean” for 72 hours before he can get help. Ann can’t remember a time when he went more than 24 without using some form of drugs.

And it’s everything. Cannabis, mephedrone, ecstasy, prescription drugs... things I am ignorant enough to say I had no idea what they are - yellows or blues; tablets which can be bought in huge quantities online, or easily on our streets.

And the thing which struck me is that Ann seems to be a good mammy - a mammy like me - a mammy who is trying her best and has surrounded her son with love. “He never went to school without his shoes polished and his fingernails clean,” she said. “He had - has - all the love in the world.”

Ann is not a neglectful mammy. She’s not the star of a Channel 4 reality TV show. She has raised her children to have values. She has cared for them, provided for them, watched over them. And yet, despite her very best efforts - her continued best efforts - her son has gone off the rails. He is now, she says, physically and emotionally unrecognisable from the boy she raised. He is dirty, thin, hopeless.

And no-one will listen.

My son turns ten on Monday. He is on his way to growing up. We - his father and I, our families - do the best we can to instil the best values in him. We are trying to teach him he is loved, respected and to have self confidence.

But like Ann - we can only do so much. It’s a scary time to be a parent, and more frightening I guess to be a young person in this city.

I don’t have all the answers - I wish I did - but I do know we are in danger of letting our next generation “slip through our fingers”.So we have to make changes.