Startling message drives Cookham to aid young persons' mental health support

09:00AM, Friday 19 February 2021

Members of the Cookham community have banded together to support mental health help following a ‘tragic’ cry for help in a park.

A message drawn on a tree at the Alfred Major Recreation Ground in Cookham, saying ‘I want to die’, caught the concern of a doctor, reverend and councillor who are now working to help in any way they can.

Believing the message to be from a child, Cookham ward councillor Mandy Brar (Lib Dem) brought it to the attention of police, the Royal Borough and schools.

“We really want to help, but it’s very difficult to find out who wrote the message,” she said. “There are so many referrals for 6-12 year-olds; GPs are saying that so many are coming in. This is becoming a serious issue.”

In response, members of the community have been raising money to help bolster services that are available to support children and those struggling with mental health problems.

Dr Azmy Birdi, a senior doctor at Cookham Medical Centre, has dedicated the proceeds from 100 copies of the book she wrote about her late father, an eminent surgeon and a leading contributor to the eradication of smallpox.

“The young seem to be more and more vulnerable to stress and pressure and this was a problem before the pandemic,” she said.

“Local mental health services, especially CAMHS, are inundated with urgent referrals – they are working flat out. What’s being reported is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

“Patients are waiting one year on the NHS and even some private facilities are unable to take on any more child and adolescent referrals.”

The books are being sold by the Holy Trinity Church in Cookham at £7.78 each and all the proceeds are going to charities supporting those in crisis.

Book sales have thus far reached £900, with £450 going to the Samaritans and £450 to Child Line.

Reverend David Joynes of the church has been cycling to people’s homes to deliver them.

“It’s amazing how many people have donated – some people have offered £10 or £20,” he said. “It’s been a great success.”

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