York father campaigns for change in the law after bullied daughter takes overdose
A York father is petitioning parliament to ban sales of over-the-counter drugs to children after his teenage daughter tried to take her own life.
The girl had suffered relentless bullying via social media before she took an overdose.
Even when she was in hospital after a life-saving intervention, her tormentors continued – trolling her by ordering a food delivery in her name.
To help prevent other families going through the trauma they have suffered, her father, who we are calling Jim, is also calling for
- schools to do more to combat bullying
- a crackdown on social media giants
- and more investment in child mental health services.
He described his 15-year-old daughter, who we are calling Summer, as ‘happy-go-lucky’ before lockdown.
But she changed as she was isolated from her friends, and was targeted by bullies over social media.
“It wasn’t an overnight change. It was a gradual change. She became more and more withdrawn,” Jim told YorkMix.
Nasty and evil
He and Summer’s mother discovered she was being bullied on social media – mostly Snapchat and Discord. “The bullying is nasty, it’s evil and it needs to be tackled head-on,” he said.
They took steps to block the offenders, but the perpetrators simply set up new accounts to continue the abuse.
As Summer’s depression worsened, she stopped eating. Jim got her help from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), who would phone her each week, and she started to improve.
But in August, she took a turn for the worse.
“I think it was a number of things. Obviously Covid had a huge impact,” Jim said.
“But the biggest thing was the bullying. And I believe the schools are paying lip service to the problem.
“Anytime you ask the schools what they’re doing about bullying, they say ‘we’ve got no evidence’.
“That’s absolute nonsense. We as parents have brought it up time and time again.”
Where to get help
National charities offering helplines for children and Young People at risk of suicide and those who care for them, include:
- PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide – Hopeline 0800 0684141
- The Charlie Waller Trust
- Kooth on-line support
- Samaritans 116123
- Young Minds
- Bullying UK
Rushed to hospital
Things came to a crisis point when the school contacted Jim to tell him Summer hadn’t turned up to school.
A desperate search followed. Jim found her on the York Bar Walls. He took her back to school, but then discovered she had taken an overdose so he rushed her to hospital.
After she received treatment and was recovering, police officers talked to her about what had happened.
“They understood what’s going on,” Jim said. “They said they had seen an explosion of this during and after lockdown.
“When the police were talking to me, I just broke down in tears – and they were absolutely fantastic. I cannot praise them enough.”
Summer’s parents have now taken her out of school and are looking for alternative forms of education.
“She’s a very loving and generous young person. To see what these bullies have done to her…
“She thinks she’s fat. She thinks she needs to lose some weight. But she’s skin and bone.
“It’s horrendous what’s happening. The government, and the social media platforms, and the schools, and the local authorities need to grasp the nettle and do something about it.
“For God’s sake, do something about it. Because kids are paying a heavy price and kids are dying.”
‘Kids are paying the price’
To protect the identity of the family, a friend has launched a petition on their behalf – calling on the government to prohibit the sale of over the counter drugs to under 18s.
Summer bought the drugs from a York shop while wearing her school uniform. “It’s not against the law and that is a gaping hole to be closed,” Jim said.
He said the social media giants need to be held to account for what they are allowing to happen on their platforms.
And more money needed to be invested in CAMHS.The government kept saying it was learning lessons but nothing was done.
“How many young people need to be harmed? How many families need to be destroyed? How many young people need to die?
“It’s almost like the system is imploding.
“Our kids are more important than any political party. Politicians must come together, no matter what party they’re in, and work on this properly, and not score political points off each other.”
Jim said major reforms were needed because “kids are paying the price. And the price that they are paying is absolutely horrendous”.
‘Help is available’
Maxine Squire, assistant director for education, City of York Council, said: “York schools and academies take bullying incredibly seriously, recognising the huge negative impact it can have on young people’s lives, which is sadly shown in this case.
“I understand that talking about these issues can be extremely difficult, but I would urge anyone who is experiencing bullying to speak to a trusted adult to seek help as soon as possible.
“Help is available at individual schools, via our trained school wellbeing team or through external partners.”
A government spokesperson told YorkMix: “We are absolutely committed to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.
“Early intervention and treatment is vital, and we are providing an extra £2.3 billion a year to mental health services by 2023/24.
“This is the largest mental health funding in NHS history and will mean an additional 345,000 children and young people will be able access NHS-funded services or school and college-based support per year.
“Our cross-government mental health recovery action plan, backed by an additional £500 million, specifically targets those that have been most impacted by the pandemic, including young people.”