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Why Children Need Better Mental Health Services

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Milly Tuomey died by suicide in January 2016, aged 11. Two months before, she had expressed her wish to die in an Instagram post.

Milly's parents are now campaigning for better mental health services for children.

It was just after Halloween in 2015 when they learned about the Instagram post, and her mother Fiona says there were no signs prior to this that Milly was in distress.

They spoke with Milly and with her school, and she was taken to their local GP. Milly explained her thoughts of suicide to the doctor in a calm manner, which was alarming for her parents to hear.

When they asked about next steps, they were told there was such a long waiting list that they would be better off going private, and they were recommended to a service.

Milly saw a therapist for six sessions, but her parents later found out that the therapist was not qualified.

Fiona says, "You put your faith and trust in professionals. It was not the right person for Milly."

CAMHS offered Milly an appointment for after Christmas. The family were understandably anxious about having to wait: "We're talking about an 11-year-old child who had clearly stated a desire to die, who had self-harmed and attempted to overdose."

They completed the assessment forms together, and Fiona says it was "beyond heartbreaking" to see Milly describe her suicidal thoughts in writing.

But Fiona later learned "that these forms weren't looked at by anybody, and at the inquest following Milly's death the psychiatrist informed us that these forms are not even used as a triage tool."

The family went away for a few days after Christmas. Sadly, Milly took her own life on 4 January, the day before her scheduled appointment.

Fiona says, "I'm not sure where you put that pain. If Milly had gone to A&E with both her arms amputated and they said 'we'll see you in a week', would that have been acceptable?"

She feels the attitude is, "Hurry up and wait and in the meantime we hope you don't die."

"This is right across the service. Every single week there are people dying by suicide. It does not have to be a terminal illness. Mental ill health can be resolved, but if it's treated as if it's not as important, we will continue to see at least two plane loads of Irish citizens die every year in this country."

Fiona says she is trying to channel her grief into achieving positive change. She recently met with Minister Jim Daly, who informed her of plans to introduce a 24-hour phone service before the end of the year.

"There is absolutely no way to convey that mental pain is as equal to any pain that exists physically, and until that is accepted and acted upon, there will continue to be more than 400 people every year in this country dying unnecessarily by suicide."

"Until this is everybody's business, nothing is going to change."

To catch the full chat press the play button on the image on the top of the screen


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