Warning: This article may be distressing for some readers.
What should have been a joyous holiday season took a turn for the worst for a Cape York family after receiving a call no parent should have to take.
They spent the Christmas period sitting by the bedside of their 15-year-old daughter who was rushed to Cairns Base Hospital after attempting to take her own life following years of bullying.
As they grapple with the aftermath of teen cruelty, they took the time to share her story with Cape York Weekly in the hope that no other family goes through what they are facing.
The mother explained her daughter had dealt with relentless bullying from peers since moving to Cape York from Cairns three years ago.
“It broke my heart to hear that my daughter did that to herself,” she said.
“She was a very bubbly and happy young girl. She loved making TikToks and other stuff like that.”
She said her daughter’s personality had started to change since making the move.
“She was a seeing a psychologist,” she said.
“I’ve seen him and he said she has depression and she’s suicidal after getting bullied, and she’s had to be on antidepressant medication.”
Her father said that during the attempt, she was communicating with his nephew, whose quick reaction saved her life.
“My daughter was sending videos and messages to him, telling him what she was going to do,” he said.
“I’m very very grateful to him, he reacted like lightning and gave everyone a call.”
“I’m proud of him because if it wasn’t for him, you know, I wouldn’t have my daughter today,” he said.
Both parents said their daughter had not reached out for help all these years.
“She didn’t really tell anyone what was going on,” her mother said.
“She was only writing her emotions in a journal and we didn’t really know.”
“I just feel broken,” her father said.
They are now doing everything they can to get their daughter out of Cape York and back to Cairns.
“I’m still worried,” her mother said.
“It makes me think, if we go back to Cape York and she sees that room, it might trigger her.”
“She wants to move back to Cairns and I think she just wants to get away from everything for a fresh start.”
National manager Marjorie Anderson of 13YARN, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders support line, said that stigma surrounding mental illness in the First Nations community makes it difficult for those needing help to reach out.
“We need to be seeing this as a health issue and we need to be taking away the shame,” she said.
“It’s no more or less than if you break your arm, you should go to the doctor.”
She said support lines like 13YARN are completely confidential and available 24/7.
“It’s a good first step for people because we don’t want to know anything about you that you don’t want to tell us,” she said.
“We also have a lot of psychiatrists and psychologists and counsellors who give 13YARN as a safety plan for the people that they see.”
“If they get triggered in the middle of the night, they can call us, have a bit of a yarn and hopefully be empowered enough to make it through the night and see their counsellor in the morning,” she said.
She said a good technique for anyone could be to think about or write down the names of a few “safe people” while in a good headspace.
“If or when you do get bullied or you’re feeling down, go and tell somebody about it,” she said.
“Don’t keep it inside because it just festers if you keep it to yourself.”
She also urged parents and adults in the community to show vulnerability and emotion in front of youth.
“I think when you talk to young people, they don’t want to be seen as weak and people are seeing mental illness as a weakness rather than an illness,” she said.
“I believe we as adults have got a responsibility to show our vulnerabilities and to show that we reach out when we need help so that our young people can see that it’s okay to reach out for help when you need it.”
If you or someone you know needs help:
13YARN (available 24/7): 13 92 76 or https://www.13yarn.org.au/
Lifeline (available 24/7): 13 11 14 or https://www.lifeline.org.au/
Beyond Blue (available 24/7): 1300 22 4636 or https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support
Black Dog Institute (online resources): https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/