Sunday January 20th 2013 was the day a simple phone call changed our life forever. It was my stepdaughter Lisa on the phone telling me that her twin sister Nickie aged just 26 had taken an overdose of paracetomol and was currently being rushed from Dover Kent, where they lived, to Kings College Hospital London but they had been told to expect the worst!
Now imagine having to tell your husband that his much loved daughter had tried to kill herself, not the easiest thing in the world to do I can tell you. Then having to go through it all again and again by telling our 3 grown up children what their sister had done. They all rushed round, leaving work and their plans for the day behind. The weather that day was horrendous. It had been snowing for weeks and there truly was a blizzard blowing that day. It soon became clear that no matter how much we wanted to jump in the car and rush to her side we would be putting ourselves in danger doing so. The trains had also been cancelled so we were left with no other option but to stay home and wait for news. Lisa, her Mum and brother were also unable to get from Dover to be with her but we were comforted to know that Nickie’s ex partner and family were by her bedside, while their 6 year old daughter Elisha was being cared for by her exes sister.
I guess all of our initial reaction was “how could she do this, she’s got a daughter to look after for god sake” but worry soon took over the initial anger.
Later that day we were informed Nickie had been put into an induced coma to allow her body to rest. The next day my husband Dave and I managed to get the train into London from our home in Milton Keynes. Seeing the girl I’d loved since she was 4, laying in a bed with tubes coming from everywhere and monitors bleeping away was heart breaking, I still don’t know how Dave coped seeing her look so frail and tiny in the Liver Dependency Unit but he did and we sat with her for hours. The staff were absolutely amazing but could only say that only time will tell if her liver would repair itself or if the damage already done was too severe. Sadly it turned out that it was and after being in and out of a coma for 6 weeks Nickie passed away on 2nd March.
We rushed to Dover to be with the family there, Dave and his ex-wife had, had a bitter divorce and had not spoken in years but even they managed to put their differences aside, something Nickie had always wanted. All I wanted was a cuddle from Elisha and seeing her little smiling face made us all stronger. It was decided that Elisha would live with her parental grandparents as she had settled in so well while Nickie had been in hospital. That little girl has amazed us all with her bravery and resilience. I’m so proud to say that last week she received a special achievement award from her school and continues to thrive with the love and support of the family as a whole.
What did strike us as a family was the reaction we got from people when we explained why Nickie had died. It was obviously a shock but it seemed to embarrass them and as is usual with things that embarrass people they didn’t want to talk about it. Oh they’d talk about Nickie and the great loss it was to us all, they had genuine sympathy for Dave losing a child but mention suicide, not a chance.
As the months went by and we gradually came to terms with our loss we realized that things needed to change. Although we still don’t know what lead Nickie to take the drastic action she did it has become clear that she was suffering from mental health issues, we believe she had a mental breakdown that led her to believe she was in grave danger and had no other way out of harm’s way. We hope to have our questions answered at the inquest next month.
I can’t tell you how many times over the last year that I wished she’d had someone or somewhere she could have turned to but I realise that if what we believe is true then she wouldn’t have thought anyone one could of helped her anyway but it’s not like that for everyone.
Suicide is preventable. With the right care and treatment people can recover and go on to lead great lives. They can come to terms with their demons and can go on to help others do the same.
This is why I am proud to be an ambassador for CLASP Counselling, Life Advice and Suicide Prevention Charity. We plan to run a helpline run by professionals who can offer real advice and more importantly offer urgent referrals to the right kind of help they need at that precise moment.
On 19/20th July 2014 we plan to make history by being the first mental health charity to run the first ever ‘Walking out of Darkness’ overnight walk. We hope to have 25,000 people walk 25 miles to raise awareness of mental health issues and suicide prevention.
Worldwide someone takes their own life every 40 seconds; in Britain alone one person commits suicide every 90 minutes. The only way reduce this number is to talk about the issues that drive people to take this action. We need to let these people know they are not alone; they have someone to talk who understands and will help them if they’d just allow it. The stigma MUST end now for all mental health issues as after all it’s an illness like any other.
About Claire Hirst
I am a married mother of 3 grown up children, 3 grown up step children, 1 deceased. I have 3 wonderful granddaughters and 2 more grandchildren on the way. I have been married to Dave for 23 years and he is my constant support and rock as are my girls who have been amazing through my battle with depression and anxiety.
I have worked in health and social care for 14 years, firstly with elderly dementia patients then as a senior support worker for people with learning disabilities and early onset dementia or mental health issues.
Since the death of my stepdaughter I am passionate about raising awareness of mental health issues and suicide prevention and am now an ambassador for CLASP Charity, an amazing charity raising awareness and hope for people in crisis.
I have suffered with depression and anxiety at times throughout my adult life and continue to fight this daily with the love and support of my family and friends.