A children’s nurse with experience of post-natal depression, Nicky is all too aware of the struggles people face on a daily basis. But when her daughter, Charlie, started to experience mental health problems, she began to understand things from a different perspective.
“Charlie was 13, a promising and dedicated swimmer, with everything to live for. But she started to withdraw from the family. Swimming wasn’t important anymore and she always seemed to be angry. She lost the sparkle in her eye and looked unbelievably sad. It was only when she left me a note saying that she didn’t want to live anymore that I realised how serious the problem was.
“When you’re watching your child on what appears to be a mission to self destruct, and you’re unable to help them, it destroys you. A mothers instinct is to make things better, but I didn’t know how to do this. I needed professional help.
“I visited the GP who made an urgent referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Charlie was crying constantly, and had started to self harm. She was difficult to live with. Her guidance teacher put it down to ‘hormones’.
“She was seen by a psychologist four weeks later. I recognised the signs of depression because of my own experience, but the psychologist disagreed and put it down to low self-esteem and anxiety.
“The experience was horrible. I felt patronised and blamed.”
“Charlie was discharged after a few months, and things began to deteriorate again. We went to Spain with friends and had the holiday from hell.
“I called CAMHS shortly after we got back to ask for help. I explained how things were and that I was deeply concerned about my child.
“I was told our psychologist would call me back. This never happened. Two weeks later Charlie took an overdose.”
“As I’m a nurse, I had to take Charlie to a department when I would meet old colleagues. If I’m honest, I was embarrassed. But they were my saving grace. They understood and didn’t judge Charlie or me. I felt awful when the blood results came back indicating that she had taken a significant overdose. How could my daughter be so sad that she wanted to kill herself?
“Charlie was diagnosed as having clinical depression and prescribed medication.
“However she continued to self harm. I had to hide all medicine and keep sharp knives in the car. I even found a note in her room with her funeral wishes.
“Gradually things started to settle down. She appeared to be doing better, but on the night before her dad’s 50th birthday party she took an overdose again. She’d bought medicine from the supermarket, during school time, when she should have been in class. The school hadn’t even noticed. I don’t blame the school for what happened; but I do blame them for not letting us know she was missing from class – she had a red alert flag next to her name.”
“This was a turning point. I decided not to keep it a secret anymore. I wasn’t ashamed of Charlie – in fact, quite the opposite, I was proud of her. I cancelled the party and told people why. And despite crying inconsolably, it felt like a relief.
“Things haven’t been plain sailing since, but it has been like living in a different house. Friends, neighbours, family all know and I feel as if we’re not on our own. Charlie is doing well at school, she has a twinkle back in her eye, and swimming training is going well again. We still have a long way to go, but I feel like we’ve now got over the summit.
“Charlie saw SAMH’s Going To Be advert in the newspaper. She cut it out and brought it to me. She smiled and said, ‘I’m so pleased that they are showing this, it makes me know that it’s ok to talk about it.’”
“There are too many kids out there suffering in silence, who don’t get the support they need. And it almost killed my daughter and broke our family.”