Mother of girl (11) who took own life has set up suicide support group
Not obligatory for GPs to be trained in identifying red flags associated with suicidal risk, parents say
Milly Tuomey's grief-stricken mother has set up a suicide support group to prevent future loss of life in the wake of her daughter’s death. File photograph: Getty Images
The mother of Milly Tuomey, an 11-year-old girl who took her own life weeks after posting a message on Instagram that she was unhappy with her appearance and wanted to die, set up a suicide support group to help others and prevent future loss of life in the wake of her daughter’s death.
Fiona Tuomey founded the Healing Untold Grief Group (HUGG) with a number of specific goals. “The aim was to bring people together who have lost others to suicide, to provide peer support so people don’t feel so alone,” Ms Tuomey said, speaking at the inquest into her daughter’s death on Thursday.
“It is also a point of information and a suicide authority to ring-fence services and prevent gaps, to prevent others going through what we have gone through.”
The Tuomey family described as a “bolt out of the blue” their daughter’s post to Instagram that she had chosen the day she would die.
“Milly was extremely vivacious, loud, chatty and fun. She had a super relationship with her sister. When she entered a room you knew about it, she was that kind of girl,” Ms Tuomey said.
“She was very happy at school and loved it, She had new best friends, there was no bullying, she was not left out,” the child’s mother said.
The family did everything in their power to help Milly after they became aware of her Instagram post on November 3rd, 2015.
“We spoke with her and with her school and we took her to her GP who we are told are the gatekeepers of treatment in Irish society.
“If you, as we did, believe that the Irish College of General Practitioners require that the 2,500 GPs in Ireland should be skilled in the practice of how to make a clinical assessment of suicidal risk then you will be shocked to know the answer is no. It is currently not obligatory for Irish GPs to be specifically trained in identifying the recognised red flags associated with suicidal risk,” the family said in a statement after the inquest on Thursday.
The Tuomey family had lived in Switzerland for five years and Milly was a fluent speaker of German and Swiss German. She loved figure skating and had entered competitions. She loved to play the piano.
When Milly left her parents, sister and grandfather watching a film in the living room to go upstairs on January 1st 2016, she said she was “bored” and was going to play the piano. Earlier, her parents had spoken to her about her refusal to eat lunch and the importance of her health.
Milly had previously spoken of her unhappiness with her appearance. On the night of January 1st, she was on Instagram and her parents told her she was not to leave the living room with her iPad. She had been “annoyed by this”. She was found moments later in a critical condition upstairs and rushed to hospital where she died on January 4th.
The inquest into her death heard the family GP recommended she see a clinical psychologist at An Cuan, a private counselling and psychotherapy clinic. The Tuomeys made an appointment but the psychologist was no longer taking patients. Milly was assigned to an art therapist, who was not qualified to make clinical assessments.
After Milly’s first visit, the therapist advised Ms Tuomey to make an appointment with the HSE’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. An appointment was made for January 30th, 2016, but this was brought forward after Ms Twomey found a “suicide diary” along with medication indicating an attempt at self harm under her daughter’s bed.
The family were advised to go to their local hospital emergency department if any concerns arose over Christmas or out of hours.
After the inquest the family said it was “simply not acceptable” that there were no clinical protocols for when a child has a mental health crisis in the 21st century.
Suicide in this age group is rare but becoming more frequent, according to Prof Ella Arensman, Director of Research at the National Suicide Research Foundation. She warned that younger children are now choosing “more highly lethal” methods of self harm than previously. It is not known yet if this is connected to exposure to social media, Dr Arensman said.
“We see more young people where the time window of self harm moving onto highly lethal methods (or adult type methods) seems to be much shorter. We are concerned about exposures that are difficult for us to control,” Dr Arensman said.
If you are affected by any of these issues, contact the Samaritans (116 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org) or the eating disorder association Bodywhys (1890 200 444 or email@example.com)
Link: Healing Untold Grief support group: https://www.facebook.com/events/1185237671592936