A child aged eleven who was unhappy with her physical appearance posted on her Instagram account of her intention to die, writes Louise Roseingrave.
A coroner returned a verdict of suicide at the inquest into the death of Milly Tuomey from Templeogue in Dublin 6. The child died on January 4 2016.
“Milly was loving and greatly loved, fit, healthy, connected, engaged and talented,” the child’s devastated parents Fiona and Tim Tuomey said in a statement after the inquest.
“When we discovered out of the blue that our child had told her friends on Instagram that she had chosen the day she would die, we couldn’t believe it. We did not know what to do,” they said.
Dublin Coroner’s Court heard that on November 3 2015 Milly posted on Instagram to hundreds of friends of her intention to die on a certain date.
Her parents were alerted by her elder sister and her school. They took Milly to see their GP and during this visit Milly expressed a death wish. She spoke about thoughts of self harm and said she had been unhappy with her physical appearance for a number of years.
Her 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, the inquest heard.
The child began a series of weekly appointments on November 24 2015 where she was encouraged to explore her emotions through verbal and visual means.
After Milly’s first visit, the therapist advised Mrs Tuomey to make an appointment with the HSE’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). An appointment was made for January 30 2016 but this was brought forward after Mrs Twomey found a ‘suicide diary’ along with medication indicating an attempt at self harm under her daughter’s bed.
“She’d cut herself and written in biro on herself, ‘beautiful girls don’t eat’,” Mrs Tuomey told the court.
“We were terrified. We had no experience of this and no idea what to do,” she said.
The family was advised to go to their local emergency department if any concerns arose over Christmas or out of hours.
The court heard that on January 1 2016 the family ate dinner together and watched a film. That evening, Milly declared she was bored and left the room. She was found moments later in a critical condition and emergency services were called. She was rushed to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital where she died on January 4.
Irish children as young as seven have expressed suicidal ideation, Psychiatrist Dr Antoinette D’Alton told the court.
“Years ago this would have been unimaginable. Now suicidal ideation is increasing in children as young as seven. There is a care pathway but it is under resourced,” Dr D’Alton said.
Ireland currently ranks fifth in Europe in cases of suicide in the ten to 14 age group and the past decade has seen a ‘step by step increase’ in instances of non-fatal self-harm among ten to 14 year olds, according to Director of Research at the National Suicide Research Foundation Professor Ella Arensman.
Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane commended the Twomeys for their decision to donate their little girl’s organs. The coroner noted comments from experts who stated further resources were required for child and adolescent mental health services and recommended the provision of information to support parents and families while they wait to be seen by services.
In their statement, the family said that they discovered there are no clinical protocols for when a child has a mental health crisis. “In 21 century Ireland this is simply not acceptable.”
They had hopes and dreams for their daughter, and Milly had hopes and dreams for herself, they said. In excerpt from her diary, Milly told how she hoped to be a ‘famous doctor,’ get married and have children.
“When I am 23 I would like to have my first baby and when I’m 24 my second baby. If I have two girls I want to call them Vanessa and Grace Tuomey,” she wrote.
If you have been affected by this issues raised in this article, help and support is available from the Samaritans on freephone 116123, or email email@example.com or Freecall Pieta House at 1800 247 247.