Suicide at 13: Family’s plea after losing daughter
THE GRIEVING family of 13-year-old Lara Dobbie who died by suicide in her family home last year say the system needs an urgent overhaul.
With stunning brown eyes and bright blonde hair, the witty, tenacious Lara had her whole life in front of her before it ended abruptly one evening on February 16, 2019.
Despite pleading with health officials and scouring the country for inpatient options, her parents Natalie and Darren Dobbie said options are limited when it comes to emergency mental health services for children under 16.
According to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data, 96 deaths by suicide occurred among children and adolescents (aged 5-17) last year.
"What we have experienced is seeking mental health help, particularly for kids is a nightmare," Mr Dobbie said. "While they aren't the biggest demographic what we do know is children are impulsive so we need help fast."
"It was an absolute nightmare getting her into a children's mental health ward, because there is limited bed space there is the constant pressure to bring them home - even though you feel they are at risk. That isn't enough time to reassess medication.
"There aren't any private options either, no one will take a child at that age, only at around 16 are they eligible. So you are pretty much on your own and helpless.
"It is so under-resourced, the system needs a massive overhaul and complete reboot."
It wasn't until after the tragedy did the parents come to realise the full depth of the devastation that Lara was holding in. It became apparent when they discovered the diary she had been keeping.
"It was almost a death diary, we saw how she perceived herself, we didn't think it was possible at her age," Mrs Dobbie said.
"She suffered from bullying at school and had a falling out.
"She was angry and we didn't know at the time what was behind it.
"One of the differences we now know is the difference between adult and child depression.
"Child depression is often displayed with anger, but can be perceived as a behavioural issue.
"We need the right response in place at schools and adequate policies around behaviour control and bullying."
Mrs Dobbie said there was still a lot of stigma particularly relating to suicides at that age.
"It isn't an open conversation, particularly when they are so young.
"You don't think a child could physically do that.
"I think talking to other parents who have children with suicidal ideation, the parents are very similar."
Still healing, the family with six children say they will always be in a process of coming to terms with their daughter's death.
"It is an ongoing process, looking back and what happened and how it was all handled," Mrs Dobbie said.
"Children in the mental health system are our most vulnerable, they need care that simply doesn't exist unless you employ a mental health worker to be there 24/7.
"We are still looking for answers.
"Take it for what it is, it is a life-threatening illness if a child is experiencing suicidality and needs to be treated as an emergency."
Originally published as Suicide at 13: Family's plea after losing daughter