At 2am, she finally awoke. Her first words “can I’ve my Hudl?”
“What? No, why?”
I bit my tongue, afraid to put her off talking, confiding her dark secrets to me.I was able to find out what she’s taken. Fourteen Tegretol washed down with herbal tea.
“Why did you do it?“
“Why did you not leave a note?“
“I’d nothing to say” came the reply.
I was quiet after this answer. A stunned silence. What can you say when your 14year old child.… your baby, says that to you?
“Can I ask you another question?”
A head nods in the darkness.
“Have you done it before?”
“….a few weeks ago when you thought I’d a tummy bug, I’d taken tablets.”
“What did you take?”
“Paracetamol and Ibuprofen.”
“I want to die.”
I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in.
I’ve still not recovered from this answer. Over the following weeks, we kept hearing this, over and over and over.In a word – heartbreaking.
Crisis Assessment and Intervention Team (CAIT) who provides rapid assessment and intervention to children and young people who present at A&E or GP with Acute mental ill health, self harm or suicidal ideation, based at Beechcroft contacted us the next day. They’d to assess our daughter, and us.
Eventually we were allowed home. We had a code word allocated during one of our sessions, and agreed by our teenager with CAIT. The word was blue. If she said blue it meant she wanted to hurt herself, well actually it meant she wanted to die. Ironic really, it had been my favourite colour for the past 44 years, I can confirm it is no longer that. It plummets my stomach to my toes.
Eventually we received a letter from Social Services stating they’d no concerns and we we were no longer on their books. Unless you’ve been there, you’ve no idea how it feels to see this in writing.
As for Beechcroft. I can’t begin to explain this mental health safe place for the teenagers and young people of Northern Ireland. In my opinion the BBC report took it purely from the point of view of the mental health patient and her loving parents BUT you have to remember this place is for mental health patients. They are there to be protected. They are our precious children. If you’ve ever been, you would want your child to have a 24\7 carer, out of pure love.
At one point our family doctor told us “your daughter isn’t devious. ” WHAT?!?!?!
She self harmed for seven months and within one month over dosed twice,she concealed that she wanted to die, of course in my mind she was devious.
On our first day at Beechcroft we were sitting in reception. Buzzers and alarms went off. Staff ran to a particular wing. Some children and young people were taken for a walk – to other parts of the building and outside for some fresh air. Meanwhile inside three male staff tried to calm a patient down who’d attacked a fellow patient. The work, love and commitment of the staff working in this much needed hospital can never be underestimated. I have to state though in terms of services accessible. After three months in the system, I can confirm in Northern Ireland our children are being short changed with the mental health services we provide for them.
As parents we personally would be lost without the charities set up to help those affected by suicide. To name a few that have helped, listened and supported us as parents Ohana, FASA and Lighthouse. They have been there for us any time of the day. At the moment out daughter won’t talk. Won’t use the services. She remains silent. This is one of the hardest things, when dealing with someone who wants to die it has to be on their terms. You can’t force them to talk. You cant force them to open up and be honest. You can’t make them not want to die. It has to come from within. As a parent this is hard to bear.
Did she use the code word? Yes in the following weeks it was mentioned several times a week.
Each time it was whispered or the blue lamp in the bedroom gazed at, we felt someone had taken a spade, carefully cut out our heart and was standing in the space.
The final part of a mother’s story, will appear on Vixens tomorrow. If you or a loved one has been affected by the content, please seek help from any organisation near to you. Other useful numbers are Lifeline (NI) on 0808 808 8000 , or in ROI, 1life Suicide Helpline on 1800 247 100 . Many Thanks also to the Ohana Centre @OhanaCentre for providing help to the family concerned and for raising awareness of the writer’s piece.